Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended two judges for compulsory retirement with immediate effect.
Pending the time the Lagos State governor acts on the recommendation, the council has in the interim and in exercise of its power under Paragraph 21(d) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, suspended them from office with immediate effect.
A statement issued by the council’s acting Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, gave the names of the judges as Justice O. Gbaja-Biamila of the Lagos State High Court and Justice Idris M. J. Evuti of the Niger State High Court.
While Gbaja-Biamila was recommended for retirement for refusing to deliver judgment within the time allowed by the constitution, Justice Evuti was compulsorily retired for falsifying his age.
Oye said the council took the decision at its meeting on April 13 and 14, 2016.
The statement said: “Gbaja-Biamila was recommended to the governor of Lagos State for compulsory retirement from office pursuant to the findings by the council on the allegations contained in the petitions written against him by Mr. C. A. Candide Johnson (SAN).
“The allegations are: that the judge delivered judgment in Suit No ID\1279\2007 P. K. Ojo Vs SDV & SCOA Nigeria Plc twenty months after written addresses were adopted by all the counsel and 35 months after the close of evidence in the suit, contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgments should be delivered within a period of 90 days;
“That His Lordship did not publish a copy of the judgment he delivered on December 24, 2013 until after 40 days, contrary to the provision of the constitution which require that a copy of the judgment of a Superior Court of Record be given to parties in the case within seven days of delivery.
“That the judge continued to hear the suit in his court after he had been notified of the pendency of a motion for a stay of execution at the Court of Appeal and that an appeal had been entered.
“Prior to the issuance of the first writ of attachment, the court registrar under the direct administration of the judge falsely misrepresented to the deputy sheriff in a memo dated November 28th ,2014, that there was no appeal or motion in the case file as at November 28, 2014.
“Meanwhile, there were two notices of appeal and two summons to settle records in the court’s file.
“That the judge gave an order on February 23, 2015 upon an ex-parte application substituting the name of SDV Nigeria Ltd with Bollore Logistics Nigeria Ltd without serving the order of substitution on the affected party or its legal representatives.
“That the judge failed to maintain the professional competence required to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.”
NJC said the above allegations constituted misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1)(b) of the constitution and Rules 1.3, 3.3, 3.4 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The council said it also considered a petition written by Mohammed Idris Eggun against Justices Idris M. J. Evuti and Tanko Yusuf Usman of the High Court of Niger State on falsification of their dates of birth.
The petitioner had alleged that Justice Idris M. J. Evuti falsified his age from September 15th, 1950 to April 10th, 1953 and Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman falsified his age from June 27th, 1950 to June 27th, 1951.
A fact finding committee set up by the council found from the records made available to it that the Justice Evuti used three different dates of birth over the years as September 15, 1950, April 10, 1953 and April 1, 1953 and therefore recommended his compulsory retirement with immediate effect.
Apart from recommending him for compulsory retirement, the council recommended to the government of Niger State to deduct all salaries received by Justice Evuti from September 2015 till date from his gratuity and remit same to the NJC that pays salaries of all judicial officers in the federation.
The statement further said: “With respect to the Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman, council did not recommend his compulsory retirement because it had already accepted his retirement with effect from March 1, 2016.
“However, council decided to write to the government of Niger State, to deduct from the gratuity the salaries received by him from June 2015 when His Lordship should have retired from the Bench.”
NJC said it exonerated Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos of misconduct as it found unsubstantiated a petition of alleged misconduct written against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The judge was alleged to have been biased in granting ex-parte orders of injunction against the commission in Suit No FNC\L\CS\767\15: BGL Ltd and Ors V. Securities and Exchange Commission without due regard to the relevant factors and circumstances of the case.
However, SEC’s counsel, Oluwaseun Olusiyi, was also reported to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for walking out on the judge on the matter when she was told the matter was not ripe for hearing for disciplinary action.
NJC said in the last two years, it had been repositioned and introduced reforms pursuant to the provisions of Section 160 of the constitution.
It listed some of the reforms as the introduction of the Revised National Judicial Council Guidelines and Procedural Rules for Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria; Judicial Discipline Regulations; Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and the National Judicial Policy.
The council said: “Given the far reaching amendments effected in the aforementioned documents and the laudable policies introduced in the National Judicial Policy which will impact on the general administration of justice, council decided that it is imperative for the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of National Judicial Council to publicly launch them on a date to be announced.”