•Orders retirement of 2 others
From GODWIN TSA
The hammer of the National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday fell on two erring judges who were retired over alleged unethical conduct and incompetence.
Besides, the disciplinary body of the nation’s judiciary has set up a committee to investigate the activities of an Abuja High Court judge, Justice Abubakar Talba over his alleged role in the plea bargain saga involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the self-confessed pension thief, Yakubu Yusufu.
The affected judicial officers are Justices Charles Archibong of a Federal High Court, Lagos division and Thomas Naron of High Court of Justice in Plateau State. Specifically, the council after an emergency meeting presided by its Chairman and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhta, recommended the compulsory retirement of the two senior officers.
In the case of Justice Archibong, he was recommended to President Goodluck Jonathan for compulsory retirement pursuant to the ‘findings” by the council on the following complaints against him: •That the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused without taking his plea;
•That he refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to the lawyers; •That the judge issued a bench warrant on some officials of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them filed an affidavit that he had not been able to serve the contempt application;
•That he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria;
•That there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Hon. Justice Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court; and
•That he granted the leave sought for in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier on overruled the preliminary objection.
On his part, Justice Naron was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor David Jonah Jang sequel to the ‘findings’ by the council that there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of MMS and SMS (text) messages between Justice Naron and one of the lead counsel for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State gubernatorial Election Tribunal contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vide Section 292(1((b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The council also set up a ‘Fact Finding’ committee to investigate the allegations leveled against Justice Talba of FCT High Court in the Police Pension case of EFCC vs Mr. Yakubu Yusufu and others. Justice Talba was the judge who sentenced Yusufu to two years in prison each on a three-count charge with an option of fine of N750,000 on each charge. Yusufu had pleaded guilty to stealing N27 billion of about N30 billion he was charged with by the EFCC.
He promptly paid the fine and was set free, though he was rearrested and tried on another charge by the commission. Some lawyers reacted to the NJC’s sanction. One of them, Mr Bamidele Aturu, said that the NJC’s decision was a welcome development and a step in the right direction. He urged it to carry out a thorough sanitisation of the judiciary.
“I have no problem with the decision of the NJC, if these judges have been found guilty of unethical practices. I believe they were given fair hearing before the decision was reached, and so, their sack will only send warning signals to other corrupt judges,” the lawyer said. According to Aturu, some lawyers also aid judges in carrying out unethical practices, and this is detrimental to judicial integrity.
He urged the CJN to ensure thorough cleansing of the judiciary to restore public confidence. Mr Yemi Candide-Johnson said it was sad that there existed a handful of corrupt and incompetent judges among the distinguished Benchers. He said that the retirement of the judges was not adequate as more had to be done to weed the judiciary of rotten eggs.
“That two of these judges have been flushed out by the NJC is not sufficient, but it is timely and long overdue for a proper scrutiny of affairs of judicial officers. “Justice has become so debased by this sort of activity that not just credibility and dignity but also the very utility of the judiciary has become in doubt.
“If the NJC does not clean up the Augean stable, then there will be a complete erosion of judicial integrity in Nigeria” Candide-Johnson said. Also, lawyer and social critic, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, commended the council for the bold decision to sanitise the judiciary. He said that the retirement would no doubt send warning signals to others who are treading the same path.