The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday announced the ‘immediate’ suspension of two judges pending a decision by President Goodluck Jonathan on its recommendation that they be retired for alleged judicial misconduct.
They are Justices C.E. Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos and T.D Naron of the Plateau State High Court, Jos.
At the end of its emergency meeting presided by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar on Wednesday, NJC also said it has constituted a ‘Fact Finding Committee’ to investigate the allegations leveled against Justice Abubakar Talba of FCT High Court in the Police Pension case of EFCC vs Mr John Yusuf and others.
A statement signed by the NJC’s acting Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye said: “Hon. Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, pursuant to the findings by the council on the following complaints levelled 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 for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them an affidavit 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 Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court. That he granted the leave sought 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 overruled the preliminary objection.’’
On Justice Naron, the statement said there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of MMS and SMS (text messages) between the judge and one of the lead counsels. “(The communication was) for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State Gubernatorial Election Tribunal.’’
The statement said that his action was contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers vide Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“The National Judicial Council has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution suspended the two judges from office with immediate effect.
Talba had on January 28 sentenced Assistant Director, Police Pension Board, John Yusuf, to two years’ imprisonment for his role in the theft of N20 billion of pension funds. In his judgment, Talba ordered Yusuf to forfeit the sum of N325 million to the Federal Government, and ordered that the convict forfeits a total of 32 of his properties to the government. He also ordered Yusuf to remit a fine of N750,000 to the Federal Government treasury, the amount being the total of the N250,000 fine imposed for each of the three count-charge. The judgement had enraged the public.
Lawyers react to NJC’s recommendation
Legal professionals yesterday hailed the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) on three controversial judges.
Kaduna based Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr. Yunusa Ustaz Usman said the decision was a welcome development. “This is a welcome development. It will make the judiciary to continue to maintain itself as the vanguard of the country’s democracy. It also shows that NJC is alive to its responsibilities. Nigeria needs to sanitise its judiciary for effective dispensation of justice.
“Any judge that is a black sheep should be shown the way out of the system. This will help us in sanitising the system,” he said.
For his part Barrister Aliyu Umar expressed reservation on the recommendations.
“I hope they have given fair hearing before making their recommendation. I hope they are not sacrificing these judges in order to cover up bigger cases facing the judiciary. I hope they are not scapegoats. If they are not, I urge them to continue it in order to reconstruct the judicary,” he said in a phone interview.
In his reaction, Awa Kalu (SAN) said the NJC has the constitutional responsibility to deal with acts of indiscretion among judges.
“I believe NJC acted in the light of available evidence and I hope that any other acts of indiscretion alleged against other persons be dealt with”, he said.