ANOTHER LETTER: Ex-CJN Reveals How President Jonathan Treated Justice Salami Unfairly

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A former Chief Justice of the country has written a letter which reveals how President Jonathan turned down advice from the National Judicial Council on the Salami case.

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The government accused Mr. Salami of professional misconduct, but he is widely believed to have been punished for political reasons.

The letter which was written by former Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN, Dahiru Musdapher and obtained by Premium Times shows how the National Judicial Council and the Chief Justice of Nigeria had tried to have President Jonathan realize Mr. Salami’s innocence in his dispute with Mr. Musdapher’s predecessor, Aloysius Katsina-Alu; and how they advised that punishing Mr. Salami would terribly dent an already integrity-deficient judiciary.

The letter reads in part:

“Your Excellency, this report is not only before the National Judicial Council, it is also at the court of public opinion. And Mr. President will agree with me that this recommendation no doubt should challenge our commitment to the redemption of the image and credibility of the judiciary.

“There was no evidence before any of the National Judicial Council panels or in any of the petitions to justify any findings that Salami PCA contravened the code of conduct for judicial officers by talking to the mass media,” he said in his etter to the president. “…On the whole, there was no evidence to show any form of misconduct on the part of Salami PCA to justify any sanction or punishment.”

Mr. Musdapher told the president that the committee, led by another former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais, found Mr. Salami not guilty of any of the misconducts he was accused of, and recommended his immediate reinstatement.

The committee also recommended that “…in order to maintain the integrity of the judiciary and to assuage public feeling and restore confidence in both the bar and bench, this committee strongly advises the Chief Justice of Nigeria and National Judicial Council to reconsider its earlier decision on the suspension of Justice Salami PCA and reinstate him back to his position as soon as possible and in that way assure the public that the suspension of Justice Salami as the President of the Court of Appeal is not ill motivated.”

The former Chief Justice’s letter to the president came ahead of an official recommendation by the National Judicial Council, that Mr. Salami be recalled. Both calls were rejected by the president.

Mr. Jonathan’s firm refusal to reinstate the judge, who finally retired October 2013, spurred widespread allegations that the president’s decision was politically-motivated beyond the professional breach the government claimed as its reason for suspending him. Mr. Musdapher’s letter appears to back that claim.

However, Mr. Salami was suspended August 18, 2011, just as the Court of Appeal was hearing a suit brought by the presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Muhammadu Buhari, against President Jonathan’s election. Mr. Salami’s suspension was approved by the president even while the matter had gone before a court.

After Mr. Katsina-Alu left office, his successor, Mr. Musdapher ordered a review of the case. The Uwais panel found Mr. Salami not guilty, and rather, it criticized Mr. Katsina-Alu in his capacity as CJN then.

Mr. Musdapher’s letter provides an insight into how President Jonathan turned down recommendations for Mr. Salami’s recall, rebuffing detailed presentation from the Chief Justice, and the NJC. The NJC is mandated by the constitution to advise the president on such matters.

Source: Premium Times

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