5 JUSTICES TO TRY SALAMI, KATSINA - ALU
ABUJA - DETERMINED to get to the root of the ongoing feud between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Kastina-Alu, and President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, following alleged judicial malpractice, the National Judicial Council, NJC, yesterday, constituted a five-man probe panel to commence investigation on the matter.
Vanguard gathered that the immediate past President of the Appeal Court, Justice Umaru Abdulahi, was mandated by the NJC to head the probe panel.
Others drafted into the investigative panel are former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Pius Aderemi; a former Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Apiroroh; as well as a female Judge whose name could not be ascertained at press time.
NJC in the terms of reference it laid down for the panel, maintained that it should gather, investigate and forward a conclusive report of its findings within the next three months.
Whereas the CJN remains the head of both the NJC and the Supreme Court, it is the statutory duty of the Appeal Court President to constitute election petition panels that will adjudicate over any disputes that may arise after the elections.
The NJC had, Monday, summoned both the CJN and the PCA to appear before it yesterday sequel to the barrage of petitions alleging that they were at various times involved in judicial misconduct.
The body ordered the CJN who by virtue of his position always superintend over its meetings, to step aside from performing such function considering that he cannot be a Judge over his own case.
The meeting which is the fifth time the body has met recently was specifically convened for the purpose of scrutinizing the conduct of these warring judicial officers vis Ã vis the allegations of corruption which are threatening to erode the integrity of the judicial arm of government.
Having stepped aside, the Deputy Chairman of the NJC, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, yesterday assumed jurisdiction over the meeting.
The source who spoke to Vanguard after the meeting said that Justice Musdapher disagreed with the former President of the Nigeria Bar Association Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN over the composition of the panel.
The probe was activated by a petition forwarded to the NJC by about 15 civil society organizations last week, calling for a full-scale and objective investigation into allegations that Justice Kastina - Alu had asked the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Salami to compromise standard in the Sokoto State gubernatorial case that was subsequently decided out of jurisdiction by the Supreme Court.
In a statement signed on behalf of the group by one Joseph Otteh, they stated: 'We write to request that the National Judicial Council investigate the allegations contained in filings of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami in a suit, (now withdrawn), alleging that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice A. Katsina-Alu (GCON), had, some time ago, at a meeting called at his instance, requested him to either disband the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal Tribunal (Appeal Tribunal) or alternatively direct the Appeal Tribunal to enter judgment for one of the parties.
Following persistent disturbance by the group, the NJC finally succumbed to pressure and summoned the duo to appear before it yesterday.