•Says it has exclusive powers to recall Justice Salami and not Jonathan
From GODWIN TSA Abuja.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday reversed itself over the suspension of former president, Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Isa Ayo Salami. The NJC told a Federal High Court that President Goodluck Jonathan had no power or role under the 1999 Constitution or any other law to recall or reinstate Justice Salami or any other justice of the appellate court. Justice Salami was suspended by the NJC last year. He was ordered to be reinstated.
The Council also faulted the re-appointment of Justice Dalhatu Adamu as Acting President of the Court of Appeal, describing his continuous stay in office as unconstitutional and illegal by virtue of section 238 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. The Council, under its former Chairman and immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, lifted the suspension of Salami but referred the issue of his reinstatement to President Jonathan for his approval.
Since then, the matter had been hanging, culminating into allegations and counter-allegations in the direction of the office of and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, the NJC, under its new chairman and present CJN, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, may have changed its mind over the matter. The position of the Council was contained in its written address in a fresh suit filed by 11 lawyers, who are challenging the powers of President Jonathan to exercise disciplinary functions over Justices of the Court of Appeal, including the suspended President of the court, Justice Salami.
Citing the provisions of sections 153, 158 (1) of the 1999 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 Council told the court that it is clothed with the power to suspend and recall Justice Salami without any recourse to the president. Section 158 in reference provides that “in exercising its power to make appointment or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, …the National Judicial Council,…shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or persons.”
The Council argued that the only instance it exercises its powers in conjunction with the president was in appointment and removal of judicial officers and did not extend to its (NJC) disciplinary control over the judicial officers and reinstatement /recalling of suspended judicial officers as these were residual powers exercisable exclusively by the council. While urging the court to resolve the suit in favour of the plaintiffs, counsel to the NJC, Usman Isa, argued that the exercise of disciplinary power and recall of a suspended Justice of the Court of Appeal, was exclusively vested in the NJC by the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Justice Adamu has asked the court to throw out the suit for lacking in merit. In a preliminary objection he filed through the law firm of Sebastine Hon (SAN), Justice Adamu described the plaintiffs as busy bodies, who had no special interest in the matter. The plaintiffs under the platform of Registered Trustees of Center for the Promotion of Arbitration, have approached the court presided by Justice Adamu Bello through an originating summons for an order of mandamus directing the NJC to recall Justice Salami to resume his duties as the President of the Court of Appeal forthwith. Justice Adamu Bello has adjourned the case to December 4, 2012 for adoption of written briefs.