A PROMINENT lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Emeka Ngige yesterday hailed the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
Speaking with journalists, Ngige who is also aspiring to be President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), praised the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher who in his capacity as Chairman of NJC, acted on the recommendations of the subcommittee headed by Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Mukthar that Justice Salami be recalled immediately without any strings attached.
Ngige said the subcommittee had found as a fact that Justice Salami did not commit any offence to warrant the suspension clamped on him by NJC then under the leadership of Justice Ignatius Katsina-Alu, the immediate past CJN.
“The Court of Appeal as an intermediate court in the hierarchy of courts in Nigeria is too important a court to be left without a head in the last 10 months. The action of NJC, though coming late, is still commendable having regard to the powerful forces who want Justice Salami to be in the cooler until he reaches retirement age in October 2013.
“Already, a lot of damage has been inflicted on the image of the Court of Appeal and on the psyche of the justices following the forced absence of Justice Salami. Incidents of conflicting judgments, breach of the doctrine of stare decisis and rumours of corruption have worsened and/or escalated since the illegal suspension was clamped on the PCA,” Ngige said.
He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to restore Justice Salami to his office with the same promptness with which he executed the suspension on a Sunday evening in August 2011.
Ngige added: “The lesson from the sordid drama in Justice Salami’s saga is that there is truly no independence of the judiciary in Nigeria. Our judiciary is still vulnerable to manipulations and intimidation by the executive arm of the government. Judicial independence in Nigeria is a mirage.
“I therefore call on the members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the ongoing constitutional review exercise to reflect the position of the Nigerian Bar Association on the structure and composition of the National Judicial Council, among others, to avoid a repeat of what happened to Justice Salami. It is Justice Salami today, who knows whose turn it will be next.”