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Move to broker truce in suit against National Assembly, AGF, NJC over judges’ pay fails

By John Akubo, Ameh Ochojila and Ernest Nzor, Abuja
23 June 2022   |   2:42 am
Move to settle out of court in a suit instituted against the National Assembly, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and National Judicial Council (NJC), seeking pay review for judges, has collapsed.

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

Senate wades into CJN, S’Court justices’ crisis as HURIWA urges probe

Move to settle out of court in a suit instituted against the National Assembly, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and National Judicial Council (NJC), seeking pay review for judges, has collapsed.

The case, instituted by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon, could not be amicably resolved on June 6 by the National Assembly, as it failed to mobilise all parties for talks.

The AGF, who should be the party, had filed a counter-affidavit and preliminary objection to the suit.

At yesterday’s proceedings, counsel to the AGF, Ekene Elodimuo, confirmed to the National Industrial Court in Abuja that his client was desirous of going on with the hearing.

The court, on its part, had also engaged the services of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Kunle Adegoke, to present its position in the determination of the suit.

During the trial, Chief Adgboyega Awomolo (SAN), who stood for the plaintiff, told Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae that the AGF had served on him his counter-affidavit and preliminary objection, indicating that the June 6 proposed out-of-court settlement had collapsed.

The senior lawyer asked the court to allow him to proceed with the hearing of the originating summons of his client.

But NJC’s legal representative, Kunle Adegoke (SAN), pleaded with the judge to grant a short adjournment to enable him to file the necessary processes.

He informed the court that his client briefed him less than 24 hours ago, thus, he needed time to study the originating summons and file his response.

Attorney to the plaintiff, Awomolo, did not oppose the request, but instead, pleaded with the court to allow hearing in the matter on June 27.

In a brief ruling Justice, Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae granted the adjournment request and fixed June 28 for the hearing of the suit.

The proceedings were attended by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, Femi Falana (SAN) and over 30 SANs.

Other defendant in the suit is the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), but it was not represented in court.

IN the meantime, the Senate has mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to wade into the face-off between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Mohammed and 14 serving Supreme Court justices.

The jurists accused the CJN of corruption, maladministration and incompetence.

But Justice Tanko denied the allegations.

However, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the lawmakers must be interested “in what is happening in the judiciary with a view to finding a solution to the issue.”

He, therefore, ordered the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele-led panel to unravel the issue and possibly, come out with suggestions on the way out.

ALSO yesterday, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged the NJC and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to swiftly probe the graft allegations against the CJN.

In a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group noted that failure to investigate the charges “is tantamount to injustice, considering the fact that his predecessor, Walter Onnoghen, was removed on a controversial note following some allegations against him, which were probed, by both the NJC and the CCT.”

HURIWA demands Muhammad’s resignation as CJN chairman for a full and credible investigation.

It recalled that the judges, recently, protested their welfare and asked the CJN whether their funds had been diverted.

In a petition to Muhammad, the justices said: “In the past, justices were nominated to attend two to three foreign workshops or training yearly with accompanying persons for reasons of age. Since your Lordship’s assumption of office, justices only attend two workshops in Dubai and Zanzibar. They were not accorded the privilege of travelling with accompanying persons as was the practice.”

The rights group said the intervention of Body of Benchers to mend the broken fences “is not acceptable, but it’s as good as treating serious issues of breach of the law as a family affair.”

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