Jonathan Has No Power to Stop Salami’s Reinstatement – NJC, Says Recall Needs No Presidential Approval
Some level of relief came the way of the suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami today as the National Judicial Council (NJC) described the continuous stay in office of Justice Dalhatu Adamu, the Acting President of the Appellate court as illegal and unconstitutional, adding that only Salami is currently the constitutionally recognised president of the court.
The NJC which is the highest judicial organ in the country in the same vein told a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Adamu Bello in Abuja today that President Goodluck Jonathan has no power or role under the 1999 constitution or any other law to recall or reinstate Justice Salami or any other Justices of the Appellate Court. In its submission before the court, the Council also faulted the reappointment of Justice Dalhatu Adamu as Acting President of the Court of Appeal describing his continuous stay in office and actions after the reinstatement of Salami by the NJC as a nullity by virtue of section 238  of the 1999 constitution.
It will be recalled that the Council under the chairmanship of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN], Justice Dahiru Musdapher lifted the suspension of Salami but referred the issue of his reinstatement to President Goodluck Jonathan for approval. But in what appears as an attempt to exert its authority and independence under the chairmanship of the new CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, the NJC declared that its recall of Justice Salami is final and has no need for any presidential approval before he is allowed to resume his office.
The Council’s position which is contained in its written address in a fresh suit filed by 11 lawyers who are challenging the powers of President Jonathan to exercise disciplinary functions over the Justices of the Court of Appeal including the suspended president of the court, Justice Salami, aligned with the stand of the plaintiffs in the suit, that is the 11 lawyers.
Citing the provisions of sections 153, 158  of the 1999 constitution, and the National Judicial Council’s power to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers contained in paragraph 21  of the part 1, third schedule of the constitution, the Council which told the court that it has the power to suspend and recall Justice Salami without any recourse to the President, cited section 158 of the constitution which states that “in exercising its power to make appointment or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the National Judicial Council, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or persons.”
Consequently, the Council through its counsel, Usman Isa urged the court to resolve the suit in favour of the plaintiffs.
The Acting Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dalhatu Adamu whose continuous stay in Salami’s office has been declared illegal has however asked the court to throw out the suit for lacking in merit, even as he described the plaintiffs as busy bodies. He was represented in court today by Daniel Penda from Sebastine Hon’s chambers.
The plaintiffs under the platform of Registered Trustees of Center for the Promotion of Arbitration, have approached the court presided by Justice Adamu Bello through an originating summons for an order of mandamus directing the NJC to recall Justice Salami to resume his duties as the President of the Court of Appeal forthwith. They also seek an injunction restraining the NJC from further recommending to President Jonathan the extension or reappointment of Justice Adamu as the Acting President of the Court of Appeal.
It was their contention that as legal practitioners, they are directly affected by a gap in the administration of justice and therefore have a constitutional duty to pray for the reliefs sought against the president not to be involved in the smooth running of the administration of justice as it relates to disciplinary duties of the NJC.
They further asked the Court to order the NJC to implement the report of the Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar panel which recommended the reinstatement of Justice Salami after a thorough look into the circumstances that led to his suspension.
Other defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Justice Isa Ayo Salami and the acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dalhatu Adamu.
Some of the questions posed by the plaintiffs for the determination of the court include the following:
“Whether the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has any step to take within the provisions of section 153 and 21 third schedule of the 1999 constitution in relation to the recall of Justice Isa Ayo Salami as recommended by the NJC.
“Whether the NJC solely has the power to exercise disciplinary functions over the Justices of the Court of Appeal/ or the President of the Court of Appeal in the circumstances of this case, as it affects Justice Ayo Salami, under sections 153 and section 21 of the third schedule to the constitution.”
At the end of court sitting today, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned the case to December 4, 2012 for adoption of written briefs.
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