The National Judicial Council has asked six judges suspended in October last year over corruption allegations to resume their judicial functions next Wednesday.
A statement by the NJC’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, on Saturday, said the six judges would be formally informed to resume work by their various heads of court.
The NJC stated that it directed the judges to resume duties following the failure of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), to conclude investigation of five of the six judges and charge them with any offence as he indicated to the council about eight months ago.
According to the statement, the affected judges asked to resume their judicial functions include Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; and Justice Hydiazira Nganjiwa of the Federal High
Others are Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court (who was prosecuted but discharged and acquitted); Justice Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court; and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The NJC said in its statement that it took the decision asking the judges to resume duties at its meeting held between May 31 and June 1, 2017.
The meeting was presided over by the Chairman of NJC and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The statement said out of the eight judges, whom Malami had in October 2016 requested the NJC to suspend pending the outcome of the cases against them, only three of them were charged.
Those charged were Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Justice Ademola, who was subsequently discharged and acquitted.
The NJC noted in its statement that its directive to the eight judges to withdraw from work pending the conclusion of the cases against them after eight months, had led to a backlog of cases in various courts.
The statement read in part, “In view of the foregoing, the council decided that the various Heads of Court should direct the following judicial officers to resume their judicial duties with effect from Wednesday, June 7, 2017, as there is already a backlog of cases in their various Courts for the past eight months.”
But the NJC also said it warned and placed three judges on “watch list” for various allegations of misconduct levelled against them.
They are Justices M. N. Esowe of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria; Aldolphus Enebeli of the High Court of Justice, Rivers State; and Bassey Frank Etuk of the Akwa-Ibom State High Court.
It, however, said petitions against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court and 11 others were found to be unmeritorious.
Meanwhile, two senior advocates, Adegboyega Awomolo and Sebastine Hon, on Saturday commended the decision of the National Judicial Council to recall some judges accused of corruption who were never charged before any court.
Awomolo described it as a positive omen, adding that all arms of government and the affected judges had learnt their lessons from the development which started with the arrest of some judges on allegations of corruption in October 2016.
He advocated that indecoruos public and private relationships between the bar and the bench should henceforth be monitored and erring persons must be severely punished.
Awomolo said, “The decision to recall the judicial officers by the National Judicial Council is a positive omen and indicative of a new direction of the Nigerian constitutional democracy under the rule of law.
“We rejoice with the innocent judicial officers and again thank the Honourable Attorney General for supporting the historic decision of the NJC.”
Similarly, Hon commended the NJC saying, “The decision of the National Judicial Council to lift the suspension of the justices and judges accused of corruption is a most welcome development.”
– Copyright PUNCH.