A Federal High Court in Abuja will today decide whether the assent of President Goodluck Jonathan is needed for the reinstatement of the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami.
Lawyers are also calling on the duo of President Jonathan and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukthar to be cautious in the handling of the outcome of the judgment.
Justice Adamu Bello had on January 17 fixed today for judgment in a suit brought by a legal advocacy group, Registered Trustees of Centre for the Promotion of Arbitration, after taking submission of two principals but diametrically opposed defendants; the National Judicial Council (NJC) and President Goodluck Jonathan.
In the course of proceedings, the council sided with the plaintiff in its claim that returning Salami to office following his pardon by NJC required no presidential assent, Jonathan as the appointing authority, opposed the claim and submission.
Lawyers, under the aegis of Jurispudential League, in a statement issued on Sunday, noted that the issues surrounding Salami’s return to office were beyond today’s judgment, while insisting that the issue of unethical communication against the jurist as established by the police, must be accordingly treated.
The statement signed by the league’s chairman and publicity secretary, Muhammad Inde and Bose Kayode read in part: “In furtherance of our advocacy on the cleansing exercise going on in the judiciary, it has become imperative to call the attention of major stakeholders, particularly President Goodluck Jonathan and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukthar to the imminent judgment in a suit seeking to reinstate the embattled President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, fixed for today, March 11, 2013 by a Federal High Court in Abuja and the implications of the likely outcomes.
“A judgment with declaratory substance can only go in two ways; acceding or refusing the prayers of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in the suit are into advocacy like us though that may not confer locus standi to institute actions of which the outcome would not affect them in any ways. It is not impossible that the realization of this fact, is the main reason we did not approach the courts to push our issues and in its stead, resorting to painfully-expensive but needful sacrifice of taking paid newspaper adverts to reach the appropriate quarters.
“Because there were no serious objecting parties in the suit, the assumption would be to say that it would go in favour of the plaintiffs, who are asking the court to hold that NJC under the watch of Justice Mukthar could reinstate Salami to office without the assent of the appointing authority; President Jonathan.
“We are not really concerned about how the judge resolves the matter, but the implication of such resolutions.
“While we are desirous of an end to the saga of Justice Salami, the painful reality now is that no favourable judgment could peacefully see him back in office, even if all the cases against him, are disposed off, let alone the fact that about four would still be pending after today’s judgement.
“If a suit by Noah Ajare, a celebrated human rights lawyer could be dismissed for lack of locus standi, we are watching if today’s would not be resolved the same way whether NJC concurred with the plaintiffs or not. It is a case of what is trite in law unless those involved would be confirming the rumours that there were agreements before this suit for judgment was filed.
Beyond the judgment, the issue of unethical communications established by the police must be implemented by Mukthar’s NJC as did in the case of Justices Archibong and Naron.
“Anything less would be totally unacceptable.”
“Justice Salami cannot return to office until the burden of the established unethical communication is discharged.
“We also call on President Jonathan as the Chief Security Officer of the country to ensure no recognition for Salami as administratively required in an event that the NJC decided to put individual interest before the nation’s and make sacred cows of some, in its self-imposed but desirable “operation cleanse the judiciary”.
We are determined not to rest until what is right is completely done on the purging exercise”.
Jonathan, through his lawyer, Mr Matthew Echo, insisted that he acted in accordance with the 1999 constitution by appointing an Acting President for the Appeal Court, pending final resolution of all the issues that culminated in Salami’s ouster.
The council claimed that “the exercise of disciplinary power and recall of a suspended Justice of the Court of Appeal is exclusively vested in the NJC by the constitution.”
Jonathan urged the high court to dismiss the suit while the council urged the judge to grant all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs.
Specifically, the plaintiffs are praying the court for “an order of court directing the 3rd Defendant, National Judicial Council, NJC, to recall the 4th Defendant, Salami, to resume his duties as the President of the Court of Appeal forthwith.
“A declaration that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has no power whatsoever and/or howsoever to exercise disciplinary functions over the Justices of the Court of Appeal and/or Justice Isa Ayo Salami, the PCA.
“A declaration that the further reappointment and/ or approval of the extension of the tenure of the 5th defendant (Justice Adamu) as the Acting PCA by the 1st defendant (Jonathan), is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.