Suspended magistrates accuse Ondo acting CJ of witch-hunt
•JSC blames previous govt for irregularities in appointments
The suspension of 60 magistrates by the Judicial Service Commission in Ondo State has created tension in the judiciary.The affected magistrates said at a press conference in Akure yesterday that the suspension ordered by the Acting Chief Judge, Oluwatoyin Akeredolu was “malicious and unjust.”
Their spokesman Gbenga Adeyemi, said the suspension dated September 14, 2017 on the ground of “perceived irregularity and lack of due process in appointment” was illegal.
He said: “At the time the suspension letters were served on us, there was no constituted Judicial Service Commission (JSC.)”They further alleged that the CJ took the decision out of hatred and in flagrant disrespect for the legal profession.
The magistrates alleged that they were not informed about the outcome of a plenary that was held to determine their matter on September 22, 2017.“At the end of the said plenary, the state JSC placed an advertisement informing the general public about the vacant positions of magistrates and senior registrars who would function as staff attorneys. This is unfair to most of us who have spent over five years as magistrates,” he said.
He stressed that the state House of Assembly, had already gazetted these appointments, which the state government also had also confirmed.Adeyemi added: “It is a known fact that suspension is a disciplinary action against judicial officers for misconduct. But none of us had, at any point during the period, been found guilty of any judicial misconduct to warrant the suspension.
“This suspension in question is being treated as dismissal by the JSC, as our names have been removed from the payroll to deny us of our wardrobe allowances for 2017 and impress for the month of August,” even when they had worked till September 15.
But, the JSC Secretary, Mr. Odubira Egbunu, explained that when Justice Akeredolu assumed office, he noticed some irregularities in the appointments made by past administrations and established a committee to sanitise the system.
Egbunu disclosed that the committee’s report suspected irregularities in some appointments between 2011 and 2017 and subjected them to further probe. He explained that a total of 66 officials were involved, among whom were 35 magistrates of the high court, 25 staff attorneys of the high court, six staff attorneys and senior registrars in the court of appeal.
Egbunu told The Guardian that “it was a temporary exercise,” devoid of victimisation, but aimed at restoring excellence, merit and due process in the system. There are five categories of people that appeared before the committee. Groups A and B were approved, but it was Groups C, D and E that had problems.
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