NJC Recommends Two Judges for Dismissal, 26 Under Probe

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  Asks judge to refund two years salaries for age falsification

By Tobi Soniyi

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the dismissal from office, of Hon. Mr. Justice Rita N. Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice James T. Agbadu-Fishi of the National Industrial Court.

The decision was taken at the council’s 87th meet held on October 3, 2018, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen.

A statement issued by NJC’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, said Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari for removal by dismissal from office pursuant to the findings by the council on the allegations of misconduct contained in a petition to the council by the Acting Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

According to the statement, Magu had alleged that: “Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is a Director/Chief Executive Officer and sole signatory to Nigel and Colive Company, contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; several personalities, individuals, government officials and business partners lodged funds into various accounts belonging to the judge; and there was an ex-parte communication between the judge and Mr. Godwin Oblah, (SAN), during the pendency of his matter before the judge.”

However, NJC said it could not consider other allegations in the petition because they “were already before a court where the judge is standing trial.”

“It, therefore, left those matters for the trial to take its legal course.”

“Hon. Mr. Justice James T. Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria was also recommended for removal by dismissal from office sequel to the findings of the council on the allegations contained in another petition by Magu, alleging that the judge received various sums of money from litigants and lawyers that had cases before him, and some influential Nigerians, under the false pretence that he was bereaved or that there was delay in the payment of his salary.

“This is contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In the interim, NJC in exercise of its disciplinary powers under paragraph 21 (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, has suspended the two judges with immediate effect pending their removal from office by the president.

NJC said it rejected the letter of voluntary retirement, purported to be with effect from October 1, 2018, submitted to it by Mr. Justice Joshua E. Ikede of the Delta State High Court after it found that the judge falsified his date of birth as contained in a petition against him by Zik Gbemre, National Co-ordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition.

“Council found that the Judge ought to have retired since October 1, 2016. Consequently, he backdated his retirement to 2016 and recommended to the Government of Delta State to deduct from the retirement benefits of the judge, all salaries received by him from October, 2016 till date and remit it to NJC which pays salaries of all Judicial Officers in the federation,” the statement added.

Following a complaint to the council by one Princewill Ukegbu, NJC also issued a letter of advice to Hon. Mr. Justice K. C. Nwakpa of High Court of Abia State to guard against unwarranted utterances in matters before him.

The statement further read, “Council considered the reports of various Investigation Committees and dismissed the petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory; Hon. Mr. Justice EO Osinuga of the High Court of Ogun State, and Hon. Mr. Justice EO Ononeze-Madu of the High Court of Imo State.

“The petition by Wema Bank against Hon. Mr. JusticeYusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court was dismissed because the allegation of misconduct was not established. The judge’s handling of the related matter did not amount to the alleged misconduct.”

“The petition on allegation of inducement, bias and alteration of ruling written by David Olawepo Efunwape, against Hon. Mr. Justice EO Osinuga of High Court, Ogun State was found to be false.

“Council, therefore, decided to report David Olawepo Efunwape, to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for appropriate sanctions for making false allegations against a judge.

“The petition written by Hon. Eugene Okechukwu Dibiagwu against Hon. Mr. Justice EO Ononeze Madu was dismissed by the Council for lack of merit. Council also decided to warn the petitioner and asked him to apologise to the Hon. Judge for the false allegation of inducement.”

The council set up four committees to consider petitions written against 26 judges

However, other petitions were summarily dismissed for obvious and manifest lack of merit, being subjudice, concerning administrative matters, or that such petitions were matters for appeal.

The dismissed petitions were against Hon. Mr. Justice JO Bada, Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Benin Division; Hon. Mr. Justice Abdul-Kafarati, Chief Judge, Federal High Court and Hon. Mr. Justices I. N. Buba; H. R. Shagari; R. M. Aikawa, O. E. Abang all of the Federal High Court; Hon. Mr. Justice Marshal Umukoro, Chief Judge, Delta State and Hon. Mr. Justice E. G. Timi also of the Delta State High Court, Hon. Mr. Justice S. U. Dikko, Chief Judge, Nasarawa State, Hon. Mr. Justice P. N. C. Umeadi, Chief Judge, Anambra State, Hon. Mr. Justices A. O. Opesanwo, A. J. Coker both of Lagos State High Court, Hon. Mr. Justice C. I. Gabriel Nwankwo, President, Customary Court of Appeal, River State, Hon. Mr. Justices C. A. Okirie and G. O. Omeji both of River State High Court, Hon. Mr. Justice Iniabasi Udobong of High Court, Akwa-Ibom State, Hon. Mr. Justice S. O. Falola of High Court, Osun State, Hon. Grand Kadi, Sokoto State, Hon. Mr. Justice I. B. Ahmed of Katsina State High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice Patricia Mahmoud formerly of the Kano State High Court before her elevation to the Court of Appeal.