By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja has declined to compel President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Judicial Council, NJC, to recall a former Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Gladys Olotu who was sacked from the bench in 2014 for dereliction of duty.
The NIC, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice E. N. Agbakoba, held that the NJC acted rightly when it recommended the Judge for compulsory retirement.
The court dismissed a suit Justice Olotu filed to challenge her sack, saying it was convinced that the plaintiff was accorded fair hearing by the NJC.
It said there was no evidence that the investigative panel of the NJC that indicted the plaintiff breached the tenets of natural justice or failed to follow laid down procedures before recommending her for compulsory retirement.
Justice Olotu who was appointed a Federal High Court Judge by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on July 28, 2000, and inaugurated by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais on September 1, 2000, had gone before the NIC to challenge her removal from the bench.
Among other reliefs, she applied for a stay of execution of the NJC recommendation on the ground that due process was not followed in her case.
Her team of lawyers led by Dr Alfred Eghobamien, SAN, Ladi Rotimi-Williams SAN and Sunday Ameh, SAN, argued that section 36 of the 1999 constitution was breached by the NJC and its Investigative Panel in arriving at their recommendation for her compulsory retirement.
The plaintiff further contended that the petition against her, upon which NJC acted, bordered on her failure to deliver a judgment within 90 days and not on misconduct that could carry heavy punishment such as compulsory retirement.
She complained that the recommendation by the NJC to the President for her compulsory retirement as a High Court Judge was done in bad faith and in breach of extant codes and rules applicable to her appointment.
She said she got to know about her sack on February 27, 2014, through a press statement the NJC released to the media.
Aside the President, other respondents in the suit were the NJC, the Attorney General of the Federation, the CJN and Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
Meanwhile, the NJC, in its reaction to the suit, told the NIC that it received six petitions containing various allegations against the plaintiff, saying it accordingly served copies of the petitions on the plaintiff who it said responded to them.
The NJC claimed that two different Investigative Panels that were set up to look into the petitions found the plaintiff culpable and recommended her removal from office.
While dismissing the plaintiff’s suit, Justice Agbakoba held: “I have carefully summarized the positions of all sides, the argument of opposing counsel and having carefully reviewed all the authorities sited, read through all the relevant processes and digested the contention of the parties, in my view, the issue for determination in this matter was whether the NJC and its committee acted within the scope of their jurisdiction or power when they entertained and determined petitions against the applicant pursuant to which the NJC recommended the applicant for compulsory retirement.
“All in all, I find that the rule of natural justice were not breached and that the investigation panel and the second respondent (NJC), followed the laid down procedure in carrying out their functions.
“The applicant has not satisfied the requirements of law for the grant of the reliefs sought in this judicial review and this matter is hereby dismissed”.