Five Suspended Judges Resume Sitting

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  •  Justice Agbadu-Fishim of NIC fails to turn up

Alex Enumah in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

The five out of the six judges recalled from suspension by the National Judicial Council (NJC) last week resumed at their various courts wednesday, with some of them attending to pending cases that had lingered for eight months during their absence.

The NJC had at its last meeting, directed the heads of courts to recall six out of the eight suspended judges.

The judges that were recalled are Justice John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; Justice Hydiazira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, Yenagoa; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who was discharged of corruption charges; Justice Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court; and Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NIC).

The six judges were cleared by the NJC to resume sitting wednesday.

When THISDAY visited the Supreme Court yesterday, a reliable source confirmed that Justice Okoro resumed duty in his chambers at the apex court.

Similarly, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Ademola, who walked into the courtroom at exactly 9 a.m. yesterday, told counsel and other parties that he was glad to be back after nine months of absence.

Straightway, he delved into the business of the day by calling on the first case, among the seven listed for the day.

Coincidentally, the only Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) present at the court at the time was Joe Agi (SAN) who was tried and discharged alongside Justice Ademola in the alleged corruption trial.

However, Agi informed the court that the case he was interested in had been overtaken by events and as such he wanted to withdraw the matter.

Justice Ademola struck out the case as prayed by the counsel.

Other cases were thereafter taken by the judge and adjourned accordingly after taking the submissions of counsel in the matter.

Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom yesterday, lawyers were unanimous that the decision of the NJC to recall the suspended judges was in order.

They noted that it was Nigerian citizens that always bore the brunt when judges were prevented from doing their job over unwarranted trials like the ones that led to the suspension of the eight judges last year.

Kefas Gadzama, one of the lawyers who said he was happy to appear again before Justice Ademola, commended the judge for not allowing his travails affect his composure.

He added that since Justice Ademola had been discharged of the corruption charges against him, he (Gadzama) was comfortable appearing before him.

He advised government to always get their facts right before dragging people to court.

Similarly, Wahab Toye, another counsel who appeared before Justice Ademola, advised the federal government not to muzzle the judiciary.

In Yenagoa, while Justice Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court was seen in the court premises yesterday, the judge did not sit throughout the day.

The court registrar in Yenagoa was also said to have travelled out of town.

Some of the high profile public cases that were handled by the judge before his suspension included that of the under-aged Miss Ese Oruru, who was allegedly forcibly taken away and married by her abductor, and the trial of the suspected kidnappers of Governor Seriake Dickson’s sister, Nancy.

Officials of the court, who pleaded for anonymity, said the judge did not sit because he might have been studying some of the work he left behind to ascertain the most urgent ones to treat.

However, a visit to the National Industrial Court (NIC) where Justice Agbadu-Fishim was the presiding judge before his suspension, showed that he did not resume duty as directed.

While some of the workers in the court who were present feigned ignorance as to why he stayed away from duty, a senior official told THISDAY that the judge had actually been transferred just before the corruption allegation against him cropped up.

“We are not sure the judge will resume here again. He was transferred to Enugu just before the probe of some judges,” he said.

He added that the NJC was expected to deploy a new judge, noting that no case had been heard by the NIC since Justice Agbadu-Fishim was suspended eight months ago.

Justice Ademola and seven senior judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts, as well as the NIC, were suspended by the NJC last November, following their arrest and detention by the Department of State Services (DSS) in October last year.

The NJC, in an attempt to maintain the integrity and sanctity of the judiciary and sustain public confidence, suspended the affected judicial officers the following month.

However, of the eight judges suspended by the council, only three were arraigned by the federal government, compelling the council to instruct the heads of the courts to allow six of the judges, including Justice Ademola who had been discharged and acquitted, to resume sitting, in order to attend to the backlog of cases in their various courts.

Two of the judges, still facing trail are Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court and Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Lagos.