Lawyers Condemn Kogi House Resolution to Remove Chief Judge

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Bennett Oghifo

A civil society and pro-democracy group, Federation of Lawyers in Active Democracy (FLAD), has decried a resolution passed by the Kogi State House of Assembly on Monday demanding the removal of the state’s Chief Judge, Hon Justice Nasir Ajana from office.

The group accused the state Governor, Yahaya Bello of being behind the travails of the Chief Judge, and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to immediately call him to order.

The group, in a statement released yesterday by its President, Arome Husseini in Abuja, condemned the resolution which they dismissed as “null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.

They said it was another instance of the governor’s intolerance of democratic institutions, the separation of power and the checks and balances guaranteed by the constitution.

The statement said the I999 Constitution, as amended, Section 271(1) 292(1) (ii) (a) and the third Schedule paragraph 21 part 1 of the same constitution, which provided for the removal of a Chief Judge of a state was totally ignored by the House of Assembly.

The group said, “Certain conditions must exist and must be proven to be existing before a house of Assembly can even contemplate the exercise of passing a resolution to remove the Chief Judge of a state in the status sited supra.

“Inability to discharge the functions of office or appointment; The inability to perform the functions of his office could arise from infirmity of the mind or of body; For misconduct or the contravention of the code of conduct.

“Any government with even the most inferior of legal advice ought to know that you do not wake up, actuated by either malice or anger or inducement, to announce that you have passed a resolution to remove the CJ as if it’s some casual enterprise.”

They argued that even when these conditions were met, “it is trite law that the ultimate advice for the removal of the Chief Judge lies with the National Judicial Council and not any other power or authority.

In the statement titled “A trajectory of dictatorship in Kogi State” the lawyers alleged that ever since the present governor assumed office in Kogi State the Nigerian public had been regaled with several reports of intimidation, harassment against either the house of Assembly, organised labour in the state, his Deputy Governor and now the State Chief Judge.

They recalled that Bello was less than two months in office when thugs and bandits were reported to have attacked the House of Assembly several times chasing 20 of the 25 members into exile in Abuja to pave way for the impeachment of the then Speaker Hon Momoh Jimoh by the five remaining members.

“After several interventions by the National Assembly, the House of Representatives passed a resolution on March 9, 2016 invoking its constitutional powers to take over any failed house of assembly in the country after.

“The speaker that was illegally installed was equally forced to resign within one year after he complained during public sitting that Governor Bello was harassing and intimidating him.

In both cases, utilities like water, electricity and communications were severed from the official residences of these Speakers.

“Today the utilities of the learned Chief Judge and the Deputy Governor of the State have equally been disconnected.

They alleged that the travails of the CJ started when he resisted interference by the governor in a criminal case involving a “controversial federal legislator” who he allegedly demanded must never be granted bail.

They alleged that “Almost immediately after this story came to town, a bitter, deliberate and sustained programme of hounding the judiciary and the CJ began to unfold in Kogi State. As a result of this, the staff of the state judiciary are being owed almost 10 months’ salary. All allocations due to the judiciary since May/June last year have been illegally and unconstitutionally withheld by the said State Governor all in an effort to muscle the judiciary.”

The group vowed to use legitimate means, including, petitions, demonstrations and litigations to protect the sacred institution of the judiciary.