Lessons from Judges’ Recall

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The National Judicial Council (NJC), last Saturday announced the recall of some justices. They are Justices John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal, Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and three other senior judges, who were among the eight judicial officers suspended since November 2, last year following corruption investigations on them.

NJC’s director of information, Mr. Soji Oye, in a statement, also asked Ademola, Okoro, Abba Aji, Justice Hydiazira A Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, Justice Musa H. Kurya of the Federal High Court, and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to resume duties from June 7.

The NJC hinged its decision on a huge backlog of cases in courts, adding that only three of the eight suspended judges – Ademola, Sylvester Ngwuta and Ofili-Ajumogobia – had been charged to court, and even then, Ademola had been discharged and acquitted of the charges filed against him, in what meant there was no reason to continue their suspension. Five others were never arraigned eight months after their residences were raided by operatives of the Department of State Services.

Dismissing the petitions against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court; Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and 10 other judges, NJC said its decision was informed by reasons ranging from withdrawal of the petitions by the petitioners to lack of merit in the petitions.

Since this development, however, reactions have varied, depending on who is looking at what. Although there is genuine disagreement amongst lawyers over the recall of the judges, it also comes with one huge lesson and it is the need to always get the prosecution process of the various investigative agencies right, making their cases investigation-driven prosecutions and not prosecution-driven investigations. The security agencies must seriously learn from this development.