Salami Suspend, Lawyers Slam National Judicial Council

Justice Salami Justice Salami •Olujimi, Akintola, Ngige, Tarfa, Falana, others kick

August 19, 2011  – Despite the absence of its Deputy National Chairman, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, and a pending suit, the National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday suspended Court of Appeal President Isa Ayo Salami from office.

But the battle over Justice Salami’s fate seems to have just begin; his lawyers are heading for court.

A terse statement by the NJC’s Director of Administration, Mr. E.I. Odukwu, directed Justice Salami to handover to the next most Senior Justice of the Court of Appeal.

The statement reads: “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Judicial Council in the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, Hon. Justice Isa Ayo Salami, OFR, President of the Court of Appeal has been suspended from office with effect from today 18th August, 2011.

“The decision was reached at the Seventh Emergency Meeting of the Council held on 18th August, 2011.

“The decision, which was reached at the National Judicial Council, further directs that Hon. Justice Salami should hand over the affairs of the Court of Appeal to the next most senior justice of the court.

“Meanwhile, a recommendation has been forwarded to the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to retire him from service.”

Although the statement was silent on what informed the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal, it was gathered that it is not unconnected with his refusal to apologize to the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu requested.

The NJC was also not forthcoming on why it decided to suspend Salami in spite of the fact that there is a suit pending on the issue before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

As at last night, Salami had not received the letter of suspension.

A source, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said: “They accused Salami of ventilating his differences with the CJN in the media but the same NJC has not communicated its decision to the President of the Court of Appeal before releasing a statement to the press.

“This is 7pm; Salami has not received any letter from the NJC. This has confirmed that the NJC had a predetermined agenda.”

The suspension climaxed a five-month battle between the CJN and Salami since the inauguration of Justice Umaru Abdullahi’s Fact-Finding Panel by the NJC on March 9.

After the submission of the report of Abdullahi’s Panel, another Committee headed by Justice Ibrahim Auta was put in place by the NJC to review the report.

Outside the recommendations of Auta’s panel, the NJC issued a letter of warning to Salami and directed him to apologise to the CJN within one week.

Before the expiration of the deadline for apology, Salami went to court amid drama of evasion of service by the NJC Executive Secretary, Halilu Danladi.

Investigation by The Nation showed that the NJC’s decision on Salami was a fait accompli as the Council members decided to go ahead with their meeting without a statutory head.

The Deputy National Chairman of the Council, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, who ought to preside over the meeting, had traveled to Saudi Arabia for lesser Hajj.

Section 20, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution says: “The National Judicial Council shall comprise the following members-(a) the Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the chairman, (b) the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman.”

But it was learnt that the NJC session yesterday was presided over by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice M.A. Bello, who was designated as the acting Chairman of the council.

A source said: “The NJC had two sessions. The first was presided over by the CJN, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu on the appointment of his successor. So, the first issue the NJC members treated was the recommendation of Justice Musdapher as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria. The Federal Judicial Service Commission recommended two nominees (Musdapher and Justice Aloma Mukhtar) but based on the order of seniority, the NJC chose Musdapher.

“It is implied that Justice Aloma Mukhtar will succeed Mudapher next year to emerge as the first female CJN in Nigeria.

“When it was time to determine Salami’s fate, Katsina-Alu left the session because he has been a party to the crisis.” The Nation Newspaper