…Continued fron Jan 24
A cumulative reading of these relevant provisions of Section 153(1), 158(1), paragraph 21 (b) of Part 1 of the’ Third schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is to the effect that the National Judicial Council, NJC, is the sole body with authority to recommend to the President for the appointment and removal of any Judicial Officer at misconduct and or, misbehaviour and shall attract disciplinary action.”
Rule 3 makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the Law.
“3.1 A judicial officer should be true and faithful to the constitution and the Law, uphold the course of justice by abiding with the provisions of the Constitution and the Law and should acquire and maintain professional competence.”
Rule 10 prohibits the acceptance of gift, bequest, loan, favour, benefit, advantage, bribe etc. It provides:
- iii. A Judge shall not give or take and shall not encourage or condone the giving or taking of any benefit, advantage, bribe however disguised for anything done or to be done in the discharge of a judicial duty.
The Appellant, presently a Judge of the Federal High Court, was charged vide a Criminal Information for conduct/acts which are tantamount to a breach of his Oath of office and breaches contained in the Revised Code of Conduct of February, 2016 and which are at the same time offences under the Criminal Law. The Judicial Oath is administered at the swearing in of Judicial Officer as contained in the 7th schedule of the Constitution. As a serving judge, the Appellant is under the management, control and disciplinary jurisdiction’ of the National Judicial Council as envisaged under Paragraph 21(b) Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The foregoing has been affirmed in a host of judicial authorities including ELELU -HABEEB 85 ANOR v A.G. FEDERATION: OPENE v NJC (supra) ; ABDULLAHI very GOVERNOR, KANO State ‘(supra): The allegations against the Appellant are purportedly committed against the guidelines contained in the Revised Code of Conduct. See Rule 7 and 10 thereof.
Misconduct has been defined by the Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition at page 1089, thus: (1) 6‘ Dereliction of duty or improper behavior, official misconduct has also been defined by the same dictionary and on the same page. A public Officer’s corrupt violation of assumed duties by misconduct in office or official corruption, also corruption in office, when a judicial officer is said to have misconducted himself/herself in office, it means he has corruptly violated his duties.”
Whenever a breach of judicial oath occurs, it is a misconduct itself, then the NJC is the appropriate body to investigate such breaches by the judicial officer and if found to be so, such judicial officer shall face disciplinary action and the NJC may recommend the removal of such a judicial officer to the appropriate authority which is either the President in the case of a Federal Judicial Officer or the Governor of the State in the case of a State Judicial Officer and/or take other actions appropriately. When this is done and accepted by the appropriate authority in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, then the relevant law enforcement Agent or Agency is at liberty to make the said judicial officer face the wrath of the law.
Any act done by the law enforcement Agent or Agency in violation of the above is tantamount to denying the NJC its powers to discipline Judges in accordance with the provision of section 153 (1) and paragraph 21 part 1 of the Third Schedule, of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). See paragraph 21 (a) 85 (b) of the Third Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) respectively. Whenever there is an allegation of official misconduct against a judicial officer and the above stated process is not adhered to, it amounts to jumping the gun and ipso facto a direct violation of the Constitution. Recourse to the National Judicial Council is a condition as clearly set out by the Constitution, and any attempt by any Agency of Government to by-pass the Council will amount to failure to observe condition precedent thereby leading to flagrant violation of the Constitution.