| Mukhtar: Chief Justice OF Nigeria|
By Nelson Ekujumi
It’s an indisputable fact that the invaluable role of the judiciary to the sustenance of justice, peace and progress of any society cannot be over-emphasized. This explains why any society that there is lack of justice can only experience peace of the grave yard which is temporary. The judiciary by its critical role as the temple of justice is expected to be upright, consistent and just and where this is not the case, that society is in trouble. The latest macabre dance of coat of many colours by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the PCA is a serious cause for concern about the integrity of the bench.
Just last week Nigerians and the whole world were taken aback, when it was announced that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had recommended to President Jonathan the appointment of a new acting Appeal Court President contrary to its earlier recommendation in May for the recall of Justice Ayo Salami to his position as the President of the Court of Appeal from his unconstitutional and unlawful suspension in August 2011 and which Mr. President has politicized by refusing to do.
The NJC in realizing its error in suspending this incorruptible and honest judicial officer whom no judicial wrong has been established against except unsubstantiated allegations in the temple of justice and as if dancing to the dictates of reason and logic even went further in its written address in response to a suit instituted by 11 human rights activists against President Jonathan and Salami’s continued suspension, the NJC agreed with the plaintiffs that the President had no role to play in the recall of the suspended PCA.
The National Judicial Council had on 2nd October 2012 told the Abuja Federal High Court that President Goodluck Jonathan had no powers under the law to play a role in the reinstatement of the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. The NJC told the court that rather than Jonathan, the exclusive powers to recall Salami was vested in it. So we wonder who made this volte face recommendation in contravention of NJC earlier position or have they succumbed to the intimidation and arm twisting tactics of the executive?
Following its decision to recall the suspended PCA, the NJC had reportedly forwarded a letter recommending Salami’s reinstatement to the President, but Jonathan refused to act on the recommendation, as a result of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke’s mischievous advice that the matter was sub judice.
The NJC agreed with the plaintiffs on both issues, maintaining that Jonathan had no powers under the law to recall Salami, and that Adamu’s continued stay in office as then acting PCA was illegal.
“By virtue of the combined provisions of sections 153, 158 (1), of the Constitution, and the NJC’s power to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers contained in paragraph 21 (1) of the part 1, third schedule of the Constitution, the NJC is clothed with the power to suspend and recall the 4th defendant (Salami) without any recourse to the President (the 1st defendant),” the NJC argued.
The council added, “We submit that by virtue of section 238 (5) of the Constitution, the 5th defendant (Acting PCA) cannot be reappointed after the expiration of three months without the recommendation of the 3rd defendant (NJC), as such the continued stay in office by the 5th defendant is unconstitutional and illegal.”
With this latest dance of coat of many colours by the National Judicial Council (NJC) in this saga, one is indeed convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that our judiciary is in dire need of judicial surgery, because they have only succeeded in ridiculing the judiciary as an arm of government that is not upright, undisciplined, unprincipled, unreasonable, inconsistent and illogical in handling matters concerning even itself and this has consequence on the society in that it has the tendency to destroy the image of this institution as the last hope of the common man in the dispensation of justice. Well, only time will tell.
(Ekujumi writes from 26a Adesina Street, Ikeja, Lagos and can be reached on: 08023172694, 07033853232)