Judges recall: No appeal filed against Ademola, says NJC
Faults Sagay, Obono-Obla over reactions
The National Judicial Council (NJC), yesterday, declared that no appeal has been filed against Justice Adeniyi Ademola, contrary to the position of the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice over the issue.
In a statement issued Saturday by the Director, Media, NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, titled, Putting the Record Straight, the Council categorically stated that till date, the Council had confirmed from Registry of the Court of Appeal that there was no appeal against Justice Ademola till date.
It noted that the notice of appeal filed by the office of the AGF was abandoned against invitations to come and normalize the process until the time stipulated by law expired. The Council therefore faulted the statement issued by the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, on June 8.
The statement by Obono-Obla had alleged that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for discharging and acquitting Justice Adeniyi Ademola and two others on April 7.
In its comprehensive explanation, NJC maintained that “contrary to Obono-Obla statement, the Registry of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja, had informed the Department of Information, NJC that the office of the AGF filed two notices of appeal in the Court; the first one was filed on April 7, against Justice Ademola, his wife, Olabowale Ademola and Joe Agi (SAN).
“The second one was filed on June 6, two days after the press release was issued by the NJC, with additional grounds of appeal against only Justice Ademola.”The statement had it 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 April 18, the Appellant (AGF) failed to turn up.“The Registrar of the Court further adjourned the settlement of records to April 21, and invited all the parties, but the Appellant again did not come to Court.”
According to the statement, the total number of 45 days allowed for compilation of record in all circumstances expired on May 7, for the Registrar of the lower Court and May 22, for the Appellant. “Council noted that the office of the AGF and Minister of Justice only filed additional grounds of appeal in the Court on Tuesday June 6, three days after the press release by the Council that the judicial officers have been directed to resume their judicial duties. “It was on June 6, that letters were again issued by the registrar to the parties for settlement of records against June 14.
“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.” Adding: “The attention of NJC has been drawn to reactions of some members of public, particularly legal practitioners, jurists, academics and public office holders on the recall of the judicial officers that had been earlier directed to recuse themselves from performing Judicial duties pending the conclusion of investigation or determination of the cases filed against them.
“Council is aware that at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Federal Government filed Suits against Justices N. S. Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court and Ademola of the Federal High Court on February 8. However, the Federal Ministry of Justice later withdrew the files pertaining the Suits against Justices Inyang Okoro and Ademola, with the intention of filing additional evidence against them. “In the case of 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 Justices Inyang Okoro and Ademola at the Tribunal”, the statement read in part. It added that contrary to the allegations by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), that Judiciary took a hasty decision to recall the Judges, and that it is not on board with anti-graft war of the Federal Government, the number of judicial officers that have been removed from office for misconduct particularly for corrupt practices since President Buhari administration came on board, that has been made public by NJC in October and November, 2016, speaks for itself in that vein.
“Some of the judicial officers were removed from office by dismissal or compulsory retirement by the President or governors on the recommendation of NJC. “While a number of the judicial officers were reprimanded by council in the exercise of its constitutional powers to exercise disciplinary control over Judges of Superior Courts of record in the federation.
“Council is constrained to say that some of the judicial officers that have been recommended for dismissal or compulsory retirement from office by the presidency or governors, have not to date, been removed from office.“But for suspension of the affected judicial officers from office by NJC, they would have to date, been still performing their judicial duties.
The statement further read that NJC will soon issue an advertorial on the foregoing and list out the number of judicial officers that have since April, 2000, when it held its inaugural meeting to date, been dismissed or compulsorily retired for gross misconduct or corrupt practices, on the recommendation of NJC; and also reprimanded by the Council through suspension or warning/caution.
“Council is not oblivious of the fact that some major stakeholders in the judiciary and justice delivery Slsector in conjunction with the Nigerian Bar Association, met with the AGF and anti-graft and security agencies before the judicial officers were recalled, to discuss the subject matter, and in particular, the fate of the judicial officers that have not been charged and arraigned.
“When no progress was made, NJC, which is the only constitutional institution empowered to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers for misconduct, decided to recall the judicial officers. “It is to be stressed that our criminal justice is also predicated on accusatorial system and not inquisitorial. “Thus, every accused person is presumed to be innocent until his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution.
“On the foregoing, Council is compelled to inform the public that the decision it took to direct the affected Justices/Judges to recuse themselves from performing their judicial duties, was borne out of respect for the office of AGF and in order to maintain the integrity and sanctity of the judiciary and sustain public confidence.
“However, the recent decision of the Council to recall the Judicial Officers was based on the principles of rule of law and fairness. “Council reiterates that it shall continue to support President Buhari’s administration posture in its fight against corruption in all its ramifications in the federation; and in cleansing the judiciary of corrupt judicial officers, under the purview of 1999 Constitution and the principles of rule of law enshrined therein.
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