Suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami
By Tobi Soniyi
The chance of suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, returning to his seat seems very slim as indications have emerged that top Presidency officials are opposed to his recall and are said to have advised President Goodluck Jonathan against it.
Two top officials of the government confided in our correspondent at the weekend in Abuja, saying ‘this government would not under any circumstances allow Salami to return to the seat.’
One of the officials, both of who pleaded not to be mentioned, said the best the suspended Court of appeal president could get was to retire from the court from his suspension.
Although, they agreed that the government had no legal basis to allow Justice Salami to remain on suspension, they said the government had enough evidence to prove that Salami allegedly undermined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and used his position to advance the course of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), an allegation that had been made the rounds but remained largely unsubstantiated.
The National Judicial Council, which suspended Salami, had since lifted the suspension, but President Jonathan had refused to tell the Acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dalhatu Muhammed, to vacate the seat, citing spurious cases in court.
The decision by the President not to allow Salami return to his seat is being seen in judicial circles as undue interference in the judiciary.
A senior lawyer who spoke under anonymity said that disciplinary power is vested in the NJC and that the council has the power to suspend judges and to recall any of them from suspension.
One of the court cases upon which the government has based its decision not to reinstate Salami had been dismissed on the ground that the plaintiff, one Noah Ajare, was a busybody lacking the locus to sustain the suit.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Friday struck out the application brought by the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Salami, praying it to determine whether it was the Federal High Court or the National Industrial Court that has the jurisdiction to hear his suit wherein he is challenging the NJC for suspending him.
The panel of five justices of the appellate court headed by Justice Hussein Mukhtar struck out the application on the ground that there was no competent suit before the court because the lower court did not transmit the needed documents to it as provided by Order 5, Rules I & 11 of the Court of Appeal.