The Sacking Of Judges: Has Cleaning Begun In The Judiciary?


Some High Court Judges were compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on Sunday, July 17, 2016, and Friday, September 30, 2016, while another was dismissed from service and handed over to the police for prosecution. The affected Lordships were Honourable Justices Mohammed Nasiru Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, and Olamide Folahanmi Oloyode of the High Court of Justice, Osun State. Their sacking was contained in a statement signed by the Acting Director, Information, NJC, Mr. Soji Oye. The others are Honourable Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, the Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, and Honourable Justice Innocent A. Umezulike, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, who were compulsorily retired, and Honourable Justice Kabiru M. Auta of the High Court of Justice, Kano State, who was dismissed with immediate effect and handed over to the Police for prosecution. In an earlier statement, Justice Yunusa was said to have earned the wrath of the NJC because of numerous petitions accusing him of receiving kickbacks and bribes. Justice Yunusa was also accused of writing and delivering two different judgments in one case. The most confounding cases against him were his decision to grant interlocutory injunction stopping the EFCC from investigating and arresting Senator Stella Oduah, the former Minister of Aviation when she was accused of gross financial malfeasance and also the sin of receiving bribes from Rickey Tarfa, SAN. Hon. Justice Yunusa’s decision to restrain the anti-graft agencies from carrying out their statutory functions in the first six cases mentioned earlier is contrary to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in A.G. Anambra State Vs UBA which His Lordship quoted, but did not apply in his rulings.” In the case of Justice Oloyede, she was indicted for failing to conduct herself in such manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary when she wrote a petition against the Osun State Governor and his Deputy to the members of the State House of Assembly and circulated same to 36 persons/organisations. She therefore “crossed the fundamental right of freedom of speech and created a negative perception of the Nigerian Judiciary to the Public. A few months ago, at the National Judicial Institute, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his displeasure with the way and manner the judiciary frustrates his war against corruption in the country. The President was dismayed by the snail pace and levity with which the judiciary handles corruption cases and felt this will slow and undermine the anti-corruption war in the country. Perhaps, the judiciary has begun to hearken to the numerous calls for more aggressive action to restore sanity in the judiciary by looking inwards to weed out its corrupt members, who are visibly seen as stumbling blocks to the success of the anti-graft war. Nigerians have been inundated with corruption allegations against Election Petition Tribunals and similar ad-hoc judicial bodies in the country. The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen will have to take a hard look around and act appropriately in order to further weed out Judges that breach the Code of Conduct for judicial officers. President Buhari began the anti-corruption war with the political class, public officials and the military top brass. What has transpired so far is fast becoming history with confounding revelations of billions of Naira either embezzled or recovered. While Mr. President is determined to rid the country of corruption, he has complained of not receiving the right support from the judiciary, despite the renewed activities and concerted actions by the anti-graft agencies, the EFCC and the ICPC, and other security agencies. The EFCC and the ICPC have spread their ensnaring nets far and wide and taking numerous suspects into custody. Their action needs to be complemented by the judiciary to make a great success of the anti-corruption war. Already, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has informed the nation that searchlights will soon be beamed on the banking sector so that, one after the other, all sectors of the economy will be covered in order to investigate, arrest, and arraign suspects for justice to take its due course and sanity restored in the business and economic managements of the country. The stern measures adopted by the NJC, particularly the sacking of four High Court Judges and the dismissal of one recently, has surely sent warning signals and for once given some bite to the raging anti-graft war. The action of the National Judicial Council will, therefore, not only wake the judiciary from deep slumber but also inform Nigerians that cleansing has truly begun in the temple of justice, the last hope of the common man.

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