- Issues warning, exonerates others
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has rejected the resignation letter of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and instead recommended him to President Muhammadu Buhari for compulsory retirement for alleged misconduct.
A statement issued thursday by NJC’s Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye said the decision to retire the judge was taken at the council’s 84th meeting held on December 6, 2017.
The council also recommended the compulsory retirement from office of Mr. Justice O. O. Tokode also of the Federal High Court for misconduct.
The council noted that Justice Ademola forwarded his notice of retirement to the council on October 10, 2017. He was billed to retire on April 9, 2018, when he will attain the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
But barely 24 hours ago, the judge had resigned his appointment; a copy of the resignation letter was shown to THISDAY.
NJC said Ademola was recommended for compulsory retirement on the allegation contained in the petition written against him by a group of eight persons under the name of the Committee of Anambra State PDP House of Representatives Members-elect who accused the judge of the following allegations: “That His Lordship heard their Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/201 which was adjourned for judgment on March 25, 2015.
“That on the adjourned date, His Lordship did not deliver the judgment but adjourned the case indefinitely, to await the decision of the Supreme Court on another matter on the same issue on the list of PDP candidates for Anambra State for the general election of 2015.
“That His Lordship speedily heard and delivered judgment in another case in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/254/2015 filed later on the same issue, with intent to confer undue advantage on the plaintiff who is from a family with which the respondent has a relationship.
“That the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment ultimately given to the petitioners contained a paragraph that was not read in open court by the Hon. Judge and that a phrase was altered, all to address an issue raised in the appeal that had already been filed by the petitioner before the issuance of the CTC.
“That some of the reasoning and conclusions of the Judge were somersaults.
“That the respondent finally delivered judgment in the case on July 8, 2016, five months after the Supreme Court delivered the judgment he was awaiting, contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgments should be delivered within a period of 90 days.”
NJC said that although the petitioners withdrew their petitions in accordance with Regulation 16 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations of March 9, 2017, the council observed that Justice Ademola’s action of non-delivery of judgment within the stipulated time amounted to misconduct, contrary to Section 292 (1)(b) of the Constitution and Rules 1.3 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
NJC said: “The public is hereby informed to disregard news circulating on some news media that Hon. Mr. Justice Ademola has voluntarily retired.
“The purported voluntary retirement is clearly an afterthought, as council had taken action before his decision to forward any voluntary retirement letter.”
The council said Mr. Justice O. O. Tokode of the same Federal High Court was also recommended to the president for compulsory retirement from office with immediate effect, sequel to the findings of council on the allegation contained in petitions forwarded by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Miss Abimbola Awogboro.
NJC said the petitioners accused the judge of misleading the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the NJC by submitting six judgments he claimed to have personally conducted while practising as a lawyer, a pre-requisite for his application for appointment as a judicial officer, and was so appointed.
NJC said: “The investigation committee of council, however, found that the judge personally conducted only one of the six cases submitted.”
The council said it decided to recommend his compulsory retirement and the refund of all salaries and allowances he earned since his appointment to the position of a judge to the coffers of the judiciary.
In the interim, NJC said while exercising its power under Paragraph 21 sub-paragraph (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution, as amended, it had suspended Mr. Justices A. F. A. Ademola and O. O. Tokode from office with immediate effect.
The council also issued serious warning letters to Mr. Justice A. N. Ubaka of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for failing to deliver ruling in Suit No. NICN/BEN/51/2014 within the time specified time by law.
The council did not accept the reasons given for failure to deliver the ruling within time.
The judge was also placed on the watch-list of the council for the next one year.
The council also issued a warning letter to Mr. Justice Zainab Aliyu Sadat of the High Court of Niger State and placed her on the watch-list for three years for claiming that the defendant in Suit No: NHSC/MN/46/2016 failed to make available the authority cited by them after submission of the argument to her.
NJC, however, dismissed the petition written by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, accusing Justice A. Liman of the Federal High Court of corruption for his failure to honour the invitation of the investigation committee on the three occasions that he sat to investigate the matter.
NJC said it also exonerated Mr. Justice Simon Akpah Amogeda of the Federal High Court from corruption allegations by Ernest J. Henry for failing to substantiate the allegation against the judge.
The council took a decision to write the petitioner a warning letter for maligning the name of the judge.
Also yesterday, NJC exonerated Mr. Justice F. I. Kola-Olalere of the NICN from any misconduct in the petition written against him by Samuel Atotuomah.
Mr. Justice B. B. Kanyip of the same court was also exonerated of allegations of corruption written against him by a lawyer, Adebayo Jegede, who did not attend the investigation committee panel to defend his allegation.
The council said it would report him to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for making unfounded allegations of corruption and for using crude and insulting language against the judge in his petition.
NJC also said: “The petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Adama Iyayi-Laminkara, Chief Judge, Rivers State, Hon. Mr. Justice Maria Sanda Zukogi, Chief Judge, Niger State, Hon. Mr. Justice Eyo Effiom Ita, High Court, Cross River State, Hon. Mr. Justices S. A. Orugboyo and R. I. B. Adebiyi, High Court, Lagos State, were dismissed by the council as all the petitioners withdrew them and council found no serious issues for further consideration in the allegations.”
But the council issued a warning letter to Mr. Justice A. M. Lawal of the Lagos State High Court. He was also placed on the watch-list for one year by the council for unnecessary delays in delivering his ruling and giving his personal phone number to parties.
The petition written against Hon. Kadi Al-Hafis M. Abubakar of the Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal by Mr Ibrahim Mukhtar Mashi was also dismissed by the council for lack of merit.
The council also directed Hon. Mr. Justice Linda Amina Yarosi of the Customary Court of Appeal to resume duty from her sick leave immediately and was placed on the watch-list for three months.
NJC said all judges placed on the watch-list would not be elevated or considered for special assignments during the period they are on the list.
“Within that period, council reserves the right to consider their suitability or otherwise to continue as judicial officers based on their performance,” the statement added.