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NJC sacks two judges over Oyinlola, Akingbola cases

By The Citizen
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align="left">The Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) wielded the big stick against two high court judges , yesterday, as they were suspended with immediate effect for professional misconduct. The judges were also recommended for compulsory retirement. They were sanctioned for alleged professional misconduct.

align="left"> The suspended Justices are Justice  Charles  Archibong of the Federal High Court Lagos and Justice T.D. Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State.

align="left"> The Council  also set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the allegations leveled against Hon. Justice AbubakarTalba of FCT High Court in the Police Pension case of the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) vs. Mr. John Yusuf & Others.

align="left"> Justice Talba is being investigated over his unpopular judgment which gave the chairman of the Police Pension Fund, John Yusuf, charged and convicted of stealing billions  of naira in pension fund the option to pay a fine of N750, 000 or spend two years in prison.

align="left">NJC said the suspension of the two judges was in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution  as amended.

 Announcing their suspension  in a statement signed by the NJC  Acting Director, Information, Mr. Soji Oye, the Council  said :”The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, GCON, at its emergency meeting which was held on 20th February, 2013  recommended the compulsory retirement of Hon. Justice C. E. Archibong of the Federal High Court Lagos and Hon. Justice T.D. Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State.”

Justice Archibong, according to the statement,  was recommended for compulsory retirement pursuant to “findings by the council on the following complaints leveled against him: 'That the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused without taking his plea;
·       That he refused to release the certified true copy of his ruling to the lawyers;
·       That the judge issued a bench warrant on some officials of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them filed an affidavit that he had not been able to serve the contempt application;
·       That he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria;
·       That there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Hon. Justice Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court; and
·       That he granted the leave sought for in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier on overruled the preliminary objection.”

Justice Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State  was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor David Jonah Jang sequel to findings by NJC  that there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of text messages between 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.

Justice Archibong's offence was that he described five lawyers who are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), including the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joseph Daudu, as grossly incompetent.

He also directed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to disband and debrief the lawyers who were representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) in the   26-count charge brought against the former CEO of Intercontinental Bank, Dr. Erastus Akingbola. Other senior lawyers affected by Archibong's statement are :KoyinsolaAjayi, Emmanuel Ukala, A.B Mahmoud and Damien Dodo.

Archibong had stated:  ”The prosecuting team presently employed, indulge in professional incompetence to the extreme and have been unmindful of the accused's right to have the case against him clearly stated. They have been dismissive of his right to a speedy trial, which in reality should be the credible procedure. I therefore dismiss the charges, amended or otherwise, for this incompetent prosecuting team. …I shall be referring the conduct of the learned senior advocates that led the prosecuting team to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) for further consideration of the issues raised.”