- Orders him to proceed on suspension pending Buhari’s approval of his compulsory retirement
The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Thursday wielded its big hammer against a Federal high court judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, removing him from office over misconduct.
That was after the NJC had dismissed as an afterthought a resignation letter purportedly turned in by Justice Ademola on Wednesday this week after information regarding his sack by the Council allegedly leaked to him.
Justice Ademola had sat on several cases on Wednesday including four criminal cases and he adjourned for further hearing in all the cases.
But after the judge rose for the day, he turned in his resignation letter making many to wonder.
Bar and Bench Watch learnt that at the time the trial judge was sitting on cases in his court, the National Judicial Council was also deliberating on the report of a panel which investigated allegation of misconduct against him.
Recall that Justice Ademola has been in and out of NJC panels to defend himself over several allegations of misconduct against him.
He was also one of the Federal judicial officers raided by men of the Department of State Service, arrested, detained and prosecuted by the Federal Government over allegations of misconduct.
Although a high court gave him a clean bill of health, the Federal Government is on appeal on the case.
In the instant case, i was reliably learnt on Thursday that as soon as the NJC took decision that he should proceed on suspension to await the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for his compulsory retirement, Justice Ademola quickly prepared a letter to the NJC claiming to have voluntarily retired.
His action was similar to the style adopted by a former Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory high court, Justice Lawal Gummi who beat NJC to the sanction placed on him.
Recall that Justice Gummi, during his time, had not only bowed out of the bench voluntarily vide his letter of voluntary retirement, he had also returned the last three months’ salary he collected to the coffers of the Federal Government before the NJC sanction came, rendering his purported sack by the Council as null and void.
Unlike Justice Gummi, Justice Ademola was in service, collecting salaries and sitting on cases until the sledge hammer came on him.
In a statement signed by Director of Information Soji Oye on behalf of the NJC Secretary, the body described Justice Ademola’s purported ‘voluntary retirement’ clearly as an afterthought, as the Council had taken action before his decision to forward a voluntary retirement letter.
The statement followed Wednesday’s NJC meeting chaired by Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen which recommended the compulsory retirement of Federal High Court judges Ademola and O. O. Tokode, for misconduct.
The NJC also suspended the two men from office with immediate effect.
The NJC statement explained that Mr. Ademola had sent his notice of retirement to the Council on October 10 against an April 9, 2018 date of retirement, when he would have attained the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
However, in view of the findings of the Council on certain allegations in a petition against him by a group of eight persons called the “Committee of Anambra State PDP House of Representatives Members-Elect,” it said he was recommended for compulsory retirement.
It also explained that Justice Tokode was recommended for compulsory retirement from office with immediate effect sequel to the findings of Council on an allegation by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Miss Abimbola Awogboro.
It said the petitioners had accused Justice Tokode of misleading the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council by submitting six judgements he claimed to have personally conducted while practising as a lawyer, being a pre-requisite for his application for appointment as a Judicial Officer, on the basis of which he was appointed.
“The Investigation Committee of Council, however, found that the Hon. Judge personally conducted only one of the six cases submitted.
“Therefore, Council decided to recommend his compulsory retirement and the refund of all salaries and allowances he earned since his purported appointment to the position of a Judge to the coffers of the Judiciary.”
With reference to Justice Ademola, the NJC said the allegations against him stated that after hearing their suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2015, he set judgement for March 25th, 2015.
On that date, however, “His Lordship did not deliver the judgement but adjourned the case sine die, to await the decision of the Supreme Court on another matter on the same issue, on is (sic) the list of PDP candidates for Anambra State for the General Elections of 2015.”
Continuing, the NJC said the allegations further stated:
That [Justice Ademola] speedily heard and delivered judgement in another lawsuit with Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/254/2015 filed later on the same issues, with intent to confer undue advantage on the Plaintiff who is from a family with which the Respondent has relationship;
That the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement ultimately given to the petitioners contained a paragraph that was not read in open Court by the Hon. Judge and that a phrase was altered, all to address an issue raised in the appeal that had already been filed by the Petitioner before the issuance of Certified True Copy (C T C);
That some of the reasoning and conclusions of the Hon. Judge were summersaults;
That the Respondent finally delivered judgement in the case on July 8th, 2016, five (5) months after the Supreme Court delivered the judgement he was awaiting contrary to the Constitutional provisions that judgements should be delivered within a period of 90 days;
Though the Petitioners withdrew their petitions in accordance with to Regulation 16 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations of 9th March, 2017, Council viewed His Lordship’s action of non-delivery of judgement within the stipulated time as misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and Rules 1.3 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The NJC also took other actions, including sending a serious warning letter to Justice A. N. Ubaka of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria for failure to deliver a ruling in Suit No. NICN/BEN/51/2014 within the time specified time by law, saying it did not accept the reasons given for the failure to rule within the period determined by law. The judge has also been placed on the watch-list of the Council for the next one year.
Also receiving a warning letter is Justice Zainab Aliyu Sadat of the High Court of Niger State, who was placed on a three-year watch-list for claiming that the Defendant in Suit No: NHSC/MN/46/2016 failed to make available an authority cited by them after submission of the argument to her.