By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Despite insistence by the Presidency that none of the Judges recently recalled by the National Judicial Council, NJC, should return to the bench, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, on Wednesday, resumed sitting at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Ademola was among eight superiors court Judges that were arrested after a “sting operation” the Department of State Service, DSS, conducted in October, 2016.
He was later prosecuted by the Federal Government on an 18-count corruption charge alongside his wife, Olabowale and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
FG alleged that Ademola who is a grandson to a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, had in the discharge of his official duties, received bribe from Agi to the tune of N38.5million and perverted the course of Justice.
However, the the trial court, in a Judgement that was delivered by Justice Jude Okeke on February 5, discharged the defendants on the premise that FG failed to prove its allegations against them.
Having been cleared by the trial court, the NJC which is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the end of its meeting on June 1, directed Justice Ademola and five other Judges to return to their duty posts.
Other Judges the NJC recalled to the bench were Justice John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; Justice Hydiazira A. Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court; Justice Musa H. Kurya of the Federal High Court; and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The Council based its decision on the fact that FG failed to charge them to court, eight months after they were arrested by the DSS and suspended from office to await outcome of further investigations.
Following the NJC a directive, Justice Ademola resumed sitting on Wednesday, with seven cases listed on the cause list for his attention.
Coincidentally, his former co-defendant, Mr. Agi, SAN, had his matter among cases that were listed for hearing.
Agi had his case which was slated as No. 6 on the cause-list, heard first owing to his rank as an SAN.
Justice Ademola struck out the suit after Agi, SAN, applied and withdrew it on the ground that the subject matter had been overtaken by events.
Agi however declined to speak to press men after his matter was concluded.
The Presidency had shortly after the Judges were reinstated, expressed its displeasure with action of the NJC which it accused of indirectly promoting corruption.
According to Special Adviser to the President on Prosecutions, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, the NJC was fully aware of plans by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to arraign the judges on fresh corruption charges.
“Some of those judges also have several petitions written against them to the knowledge of the NJC so what is the hurry?
“We were in the process of charging them to court and the NJC is aware that the EFCC was in the process of charging these judges to court and as I said earlier, there are also complaints, petitions from members of the public against these judges; so, why have they not looked into some of these petitions?
“The impression is that they (NJC members) are trying to protect some of these judges.
“The NJC will just have to suspend them again. The judges should be stopped from sitting from today because they will soon be charged to court; I can assure you”.
The President’s aide said he was particularly disappointed that the NJC reinstated Justice Ademola, whose case is still under appeal.
He said: “An appeal is not tantamount to a stay of execution but we are talking of a judge’s integrity; the reputation of the judge, the credibility of the judiciary. This is a judge whose credibility is at stake.
“He was arraigned for allegedly collecting bribes. He was discharged and acquitted and the decision was appealed. If I were that judge, I would not sit until the appeal is heard because members of the public will not have confidence in his court and the judicial system relies on the confidence of the people.”
Obono-Obla maintained that it would be unethical for Justice Ademola to preside over cases when his integrity was still in question.