The National Judicial Council has responded to the recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s special assistant on prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, over the council’s decision to recall suspended judges.
The NJC had on last Saturday, after its 82nd meeting, recalled six judges including Justice Adeniyi Ademola of an Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Some of the judges were suspended after a search was carried out at their residences by the State Security Service on October 7, 2016. Three of the affected judges were later arraigned for alleged corruption.
The charges against Mr. Ademola were later dismissed after five months of accelerated trial at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
But the presidency expressed concerns with the decision to recall the judges.
Mr. Okono-Obla said on Thursday that the council could not claim it was unaware of pending appeals against Mr. Ademola, filed since April.
But in its statement on Saturday, signed by the director of communication, Soji Oye, the NJC explained why it decided to recall the judges.
Read parts of the statement below:
“Council is particularly concerned about the Press statement issued by Okoi Obono-Obla, Esq, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution on 8th June, 2017; that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed a Notice of Appeal against the Ruling of Hon. Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for discharging and acquitting Hon. Justice A. F. A. Ademola and 2 ORS on 7th April, 2017.
“Contrary to the above statement, the Registry of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja, informed the Department of Information of the National Judicial Council that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed two Notices of Appeal in the Court; the first one on 7th April, 2017, against Hon Justice A. F. A. Ademola, his wife, Olabowale Ademola and Joe Agi, SAN. The second one was filed on 6th of June, 2017, two days after the Press Release was issued by the National Judicial Council, with additional grounds of appeal against only Hon. Justice A.F.A. Ademola.
“It is on record that when the Parties were invited by High Court of the FCT for settlement of records to be transmitted to the Court of Appeal on 18th April, 2017, the Appellant failed to turn up. The Registrar of the Court further adjourned the settlement of records to 21st April, 2017, and invited all the Parties, but the Appellant again did not come to Court. The total number of 45 days allowed for compilation of record in all circumstances expired on 7th May, 2017, for the Registrar of the Lower Court and 22nd May, 2017, for the Appellant.
“Council noted that the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice only filed additional grounds of appeal in the Court on Tuesday 6th June, 2017, three days after the Press Release by the Council that the Judicial Officers have been directed to resume their Judicial duties. It was on 6th June, 2017, that letters were again issued by the Registrar to the Parties for settlement of records against 14th June, 2017,” the statement said.
The NJC further said the initial appeal could not be regarded as proper, because parties failed to make the necessary agreement and settlement of records as expected.
“For avoidance of doubt, by the Rules of the Court of Appeal, there cannot be a proper appeal before the Court until Parties have agreed and settled records before the Lower Court and transmit copies of such records to the Court of Appeal before an appeal number is given. It is only after an appeal number is given that an appeal is said to be entered in the Court of Appeal.
“The Council confirmed from Registry of the Court of Appeal that there is no such Appeal till date. The only matter that is pending is a Motion with Number CA/A/371M/CR/2019 filed by Joe Odey Agi, SAN, against the Federal Republic of Nigeria seeking the dismissal of Appellant/Respondent appeal between the Federal Government of Nigeria Vs Joe Odey Agi for failure to transmit the Records from the Lower Court within 45 days.
According to the statement, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation had filed charges against two Supreme Court Justices and Mr. Ademola at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in February, but letter withdrew the charges against one of the Supreme Court Justices, Inyang Okoro, and Mr. Ademola, with a motive to amend the charges.
“Council is aware that at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Federal Government filed Suits against Hon. Justices N. S. Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court and A. F. A. Ademola of the Federal High Court on 8th February, 2017.
“However, the Federal Ministry of Justice later withdrew the files pertaining the Suits against Hon. Justices Inyang Okoro and A. F. A. Ademola, with the intention of filing additional evidence against them.
“In the case of Hon. Justice Ngwuta, he has since been arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for non-declaration of his assets.
“In effect, there is currently no Suit filed against Hon. Justices Inyang Okoro and A. F. A. Ademola J. at the Tribunal,” the statement said.
The council also defended itself against alleged hasty decision made against it (NJC) by chairman presidential advisory committee against corruption, Itse Sagay.
According to its statement, persons recommended by the council for dismissal over alleged fraud have remained active in their various capacities long after they were recommended for dismissal to the executive arm of government.