By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The National Judicial Council, NJC, yesterday, said it would still go ahead and investigate allegations of corruption levelled against the former Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Lawal Hassan Gunmi, despite his voluntary resignation from office.
Consequently, the Council which is presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloma Mariam Muhktar dismissed an objection that was filed before it by the ex-CJ, seeking to stop his probe on the premise that he is no longer a judicial officer, having resigned to become an Emir in Zamfara State.
At the resumed hearing of one of the petitions against him, Gunmi, through his consortium of lawyers led by Mr Israel Olorundare, SAN and Sunday Ameh, SAN, challenged the competence of the NJC to continue the probe, saying that he had relinquished his office since May 13, 2013.
It was his contention that having retired voluntarily and no longer a judicial officer, and having paid three months salary into the Federal Treasury in lieu of notice, he could no longer appear before the NJC as the panel lacks the jurisdiction to hear any petition against a retired judicial officer.
Besides, he argued that the matter is presently a subject of litigation both before an Abuja High Court where he once held sway and the Federal High Court equally in Abuja, insisting that the NJC cannot boast of having a concurrent jurisdiction with the two high courts.
Nevertheless, an investigative panel of the NJC dismissed his objection as balderdash, saying he should go and enter his defence against the allegations of corruption that were levelled against him before his voluntary exit from office.
More so, the panel maintained that it was a fact finding body that was already constituted before Gunmi sent in his resignation letter dated May 13, but received by the NJC the next day.
A source at the hearing who spoke to Vanguard on grounds of anonymity said members of the panel unanimously agreed that the objection should be thrown-out.
Meantime, the source further disclosed that among those the NJC also penciled down for investigation following their alleged complicity in acts of corruption were Chief Judges of Enugu and Bauchi State High Courts, as well as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
He said the case of the Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court, Mrs Toyin Yahaya was referred to the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, in view of the fact that she is not yet a Judge. Yahaya was accused of obstructing the execution of a valid court order.
One of the petitioners, Nestello Gateways Group wrote to the NJC, alleging that Gunmi and Yahaya abused their offices by handing over the company’s property to the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari after an Abuja High Court had ruled against the governor.
Justice Jude Okeke had in a judgment, ordered the company to take possession of the property in question.
The order was allegedly varied by the Chief Registrar of the court on the instruction of Gumi, an allegation that was denied by both Gumi and the Chief Registrar.
In the petition to the NJC, the group is asking the Council to order a thorough investigation into the matter with a view to punishing any one found guilty, just as it demanded that the former CJ be ordered to put them back into possession of the House situated at No 1 Fatai Williams Street Asokoro Abuja.
Likewise, another anti-corruption group in its own petition alleged that Gumni diverted over N4billion allocated to the high court whilst Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai held sway as the Minister of the FCT.