Judgment for sale: NJC probes 23 judges
The National Judicial Council (NJC) is currently investigating allegations of sale of judgment against 23 judges across the country.
The affected judges may know their fate by the end of the month when the NJC is due to consider the reports of the ongoing probe of petitions against them.
Those found wanting will either be dismissed or sent on compulsory retirement.
The NJC is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Aloma-Mukhtar.
The CJN has already banned politicians from visiting her residence under any guise whatsoever.
A three-man committee is said to be examining each of the petitions against the 23 judges.
Those under investigation include three to four state chief judges, a few justices of the Court of Appeal, as well as federal and state high court judges.
Although the NJC has made reference to some of the 'erring' judges, the full list remained a secret at press time.
Allegations against them include judgment fixing, unethical romance with litigants, outright sale of judgments, graft and bribery and engaging in delivery of questionable judgments.
Some of them are also said to have entertained matters beyond their jurisdiction, contradicted their rulings or judgments on similar matters, dismissed cases without taking pleas, sold electoral petitions to the highest bidders and dismissed cases even when there were merits in the applications before them.
A few other judges were also accused of peddling influence among politicians to secure judicial positions.
It was gathered that one of the judges, who had handled a case involving a disgraced former Southsouth governor, ran into trouble for granting an extensive press interview to absolve himself of blame.
The interview was said to be contrary to the code of conduct for judges.
A reliable source said: 'The CJN is set to clean up the judiciary, and she is unwavering in her commitment. She is so passionate about it that she has told judges and aides that even if her blood brother is guilty of violating his oath of office as a judge, he will be shown the way out.
'We have 23 judges on records undergoing investigation by the NJC. The ongoing probe is based on petitions. The CJN did not sleep. She made sure she read all the petitions and issued queries to the affected judges before raising investigation panels.
'For each petition, a three-man committee has been raised to look into the allegations against any judge.
'Some of the investigative committees are headed by chief judges of some states and others are being led by reputable retired judges. For instance, the panel which probed the allegations against Hon. Justice C. E. Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos was headed by the Chief Judge of Benue State.
'So, the committees are not necessarily composed of NJC members. But after the submission of reports, some of the judges will be invited for oral interactions if there is need for follow-up.'
The source added: 'The NJC will meet before the end of April. By then, some of the ongoing investigations would have been concluded.'
Meanwhile, the CJN has shut her doors against politicians, traditional rulers and businessmen seeking audience with her.
Another reliable source said: 'She does not entertain visitors in her house. Some politicians, high-ranking public officers, traditional rulers and businessmen have gone to her house, but she said her job does not allow such interaction.
'She is keeping strictly to her oath of office and code of conduct. This has created fears in some politicians and public officers. They have described her as 'uncompromising.' Her focus now is to rid the Judiciary of bad eggs.
'She is also determined to strengthen the NJC to play its role impartially and assert the independence of the judiciary.'
The NJC, under Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar at its emergency meeting on February 20, recommended the compulsory retirement of Justice C. E. Archibong of the Federal High Court Lagos and Justice T.D. Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State.
It also suspended two judges and raised a committee to investigate the allegations levelled against Hon. Justice Abubakar Talba of FCT High Court in the police pension case of EFCC vs Mr. John Yusuf & Ors.
Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, pursuant to the findings by the council on the following complaints levelled against him, including the dismissal of the grievous charges against an accused without taking his plea.
Justice T. D. Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor David Jonah Jang sequel to the findings by the council that there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of mms and sms (text) messages between Hon. Justice Naron and one of the lead counsel for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State Gubernatorial Election Tribunal contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vide Section 292 (1((b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The National Judicial Council is one of the federal executive bodies created by virtue of Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to insulate the judiciary from the whims and caprices of the executive.
According to sections 20, 21 and 22 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council shall comprise the following members-
a) the Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the
b) the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman;
c) the President of the Court of Appeal;
d) five retired justices selected by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal;
e) the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court;
f) five Chief Judges of States to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Chief Judges of the States and of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in rotation to serve for two years;
g) one Grand Kadi to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among Grand Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
h) one President of the Customary Court of Appeal to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Presidents of the Customary courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
i) five members of the Nigerian Bar Association who have been qualified to practise for a period of not less than fifteen years, at least on of whom shall be Senior Advocate of Nigeria, appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to serve for two years and subject to reappointment:
Provided that the five members shall sit in the council only for the purposes of considering the names of persons for appointment to the superior courts of records; and
j) two persons not being legal practitioners who in the opinion of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are of unquestionable integrity.
The National Judicial Council shall have power to-
a) recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by-
i. the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court, and
ii. the Judicial Service Committee of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Judge and Judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Grand Kadi and Kadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the President and Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
b) recommend to the President the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
c) recommend to the Governors from among the list of persons submitted to it by the State Judicial Service Commissions persons for appointments to the offices of the Chief Judges of the States and Judges of the High Courts of the States, the Grand Kadis and Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal of the States;
d) recommend to the Governors the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph (c) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
e) collect, control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary;
f) advise the President and Governors in any matter pertaining to the judiciary as may be referred to the council by the President or the Governors;
g) appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over members and staff of the council;
h) control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the services of the council; and
i) deal with all other matters relating to broad issues of policy and administration.
22. The Secretary of the Council shall be appointed by the National Judicial Council on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and shall be a legal practitioner. The Nation