All lovers of rule of law in Nigeria must be worried by the raging controversies in the Nation’s Judiciary in the last few days and we are compelled to alert the public on the well-thought-out plans to destroy the institution just to save the job of Justice Isa Ayo Salami, President of Appeal Court. This has been occasioned by an alleged move to elevate the Justice Salami to the Supreme Court. From the spirited defence already put up, especially in the media by groups and individuals who are known allies of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its sole-proprietor, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it is obvious that those defending Justice Salami are doing so firstly because of the “judicial favours” they had obtained from him (Salami), and secondly, because of the fear of the impending collapse of the house of fraud built for them by the Justice Salami-led Court of Appeal.

It is for these twin reasons that the entire judiciary is now being messed up by Justice Salami and his ilk with the intent that; “If Salami must go down, the judiciary, or at least, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Iyorger Katsina-Alu must go down with him.” It was therefore not a surprise that Justice Salami went to the most ridiculous level on Tuesday, dragging the CJN, National Judicial Council (NJC) and others to court and also accusing the CJN of compelling him (Salami) to compromise Sokoto State Governorship petition. But can anyone blame Justice Salami and his defenders for this onslaught on the judiciary? Obviously no! This is because in a saner clime, no one would be talking about elevating Salami to the Supreme Court.The man ought to have been sacked! Or how can Justice Salami continue to lead the Appeal Court whose justices he does not trust? Against all ethics, norms and rules of the Bench, Justice Salami had granted an interview that was published in Thisday newspaper of January 25, 2011 where he tried to defend why only few justices sat on the Appeal election tribunals out of over 60 Appeal Court Justices. Justice Salami had said in his answer’’…… Then he raised the issue of using a few Justices to determine appeals. Well, when it comes to that you must use people you trust, you can’t just empanel anybody.’’

Justice Salami’s trusted men that sat on Ekiti, Osun and Ogun States election petitions are; Ekiti State: Justices Isa Ayo Salami (Chairman), Clara. B. Ogunbiyi; O. Ariwoola; C.C. Nweze and Adamu Jauro. Osun State: Justices Clara B. Ogunbiyi (Chairman), M.L Garuba, Paul Galinje (was queried in the Sokoto case), C .C Nweze and Adamu Jauro. Ogun State: Justices M.L Garuba (Chairman), H.M Ogunwumiju, Adzira Gana Mshelia, and Adamu Jauro. It is important to note that Clara Ogunbiyi was in Ekiti and Osun, C.C Nweze was in Ekiti and Osun, Adamu Jauro was in Ekiti, Osun and Ogun, M.L Garuba was in Osun and Ogun while Paul Galinge was in Osun and Sokoto panels and was in fact, queried over that Sokoto case.

Out of over 60 justices of the Appeal Court, Justice Salami only trusted the above listed justices to handle election cases on Osun, Ekiti and Ogun States. In fact, Salami had to wait for Ekiti case to be concluded before constituting Osun State panel so that his trusted justices could handle the case! Curiously too, Justice Salami admitted in the interview that there were conflicting judgments from the Appeal Court under his leadership! Also, in his letter to the CJN, which was leaked to the press for obvious reasons, Justice Salami insinuated that some justices of the Appeal Court are minions or stooges when he wrote; “...and presumably replace me with his minion or stooge.” A minion is a slave, sycophant, bootlicker, hanger-on, lackey, lickspittle, parasite, yes man, servile or an unimportant person.

Those are the kind of people Justice Salami told us adjudicates over cases at the Court of Appeal – a Court that has the power of life and death over Nigerians! Again, on Tuesday, Justice Salami went to the most extreme by accusing the CJN of compelling him (Salami) to compromise Sokoto State Governorship petition! Justice Salami must therefore tell Nigerians who are those Appeal Court Justices that he cannot trust, and why? Was it that he cannot trust the justices to act according to the whim and caprices of his paymasters or that he cannot trust them to discharge their duties in accordance with their oath of office. And if the trust has to do with the discharge of their duties in accordance with the laws of the land, has Justice Salami called the attention of the NJC to this lack of trust?

Also, if the president of the Court of Appeal does not trust most of his colleagues as to empanel them in the Election petition cases, what is the fate of the common man who regards the judiciary as the last hope? Is Justice Salami’s statement not a confirmation that he has a ‘cabal’ or a ‘hatchet’ team that have been used to deliver ludicrous judgements that has made mess of precedence and established judicial decisions? Again, who among the Appeal Court Justices are minions or stooges? And if indeed, the CJN persuaded him to obstruct the cause of justice in the Sokoto matter, why did he (Salami) waited for this long to voice it out? Does it not amount to an afterthought and an attempt to drag the judiciary into the mud that Justice Salami is just raising accusation on the Sokoto matter that happened early last year? And when has it become the norm for Judges to discuss matters relating to the bench on the pages of newspapers?

Apparently, there is more to Justice Salami’s refusal to move up to the highest court in the land than meet the eyes, and it is obvious that Justice Salami knows that he is going down and he is desirous of pulling the judiciary down with himself. Therefore, it is important that the NJC conducts a thorough investigation into Justice Salami’s claim concerning the integrity of the Appeal Court justices that he refused to empanelled on election cases. The NJC must also investigate Justice Salami’s claim that some Justices of the Appeal court are minions or stooges with a view to assisting Nigerians on whom to trust with the handling of their cases among the Appeal Court Justices. Also, all the cases, especially election petitions handled by the Court of Appeal since Justice Salami became president must be reviewed and all petitions arising from the cases investigated without further delay. Furthermore, Justice Salami must be made to step-aside while these investigations are being conducted. Finally, if found to have deliberately denigrated the judiciary with a view to perpetuating himself in office, and also influence judgments to favour anyone, all sanctions available must be applied to Justice Salami so as to serve as deterrent to others and bring sanity to the bench.

Dr. Adeyemo is the President, Society for Rule of Law in Nigeria (SRLN).

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