By Abdulwahab Abdulah
ABUJA – The National Judicial Council, NJC, said yesterday that it had at the end of its 84th Meeting in Abuja, recommended Justices Adeniyi Ademola and O. O. Tokode for retirement from the Federal High Court Bench.
But Chief Robert Clarke, SAN, a counsel to Justice A. Ademola reacting stated that the Judge retired voluntarily, immediately he was freed by the court of any infractions over the allegations levied against him by the government.
A Federal High Court, FHC, in Abuja had cleared Justice Adeniyi Ademola and his wife, Olabowale, of charges of corruption brought against them by the Attorney General of the Federation.
Chief Clarke in a telephone interview with our correspondent noted that, “Justice Ademola who was approaching the voluntary retirement age, resigned moment he was absolved of any wrong doings by the court. Though I am not aware of any compulsory retirement as you mentioned now, but all what I know was that he was absolved by the court of any wrong doings. As it is, he is not found guilty of any offence(s), so I would not know of any compulsory retirement owing to wrong doings.
“He retired voluntarily, which I believed he reserved the right to do so. And I am not aware of any appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court, this is because I am not aware that they compile any record of the court proceedings for their appeal. Thank you.”
The Council which is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, said it found the two Judges guilty of engaging in acts of judicial misconduct.
Justice Ademola who was among eight superior court judges that were arrested after a “sting operation” the Department of State Service, DSS, conducted in October last year, had attempted to outsmart the NJC by voluntarily resigning from the bench late Wednesday night.
He swiftly leaked his resignation letter dated December 6 to the press around 12 midnight on Wednesday.
However, the NJC, in a statement that was signed by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, maintained that Justice Ademola’s action was belated.
The legal body said it had already written to President Muhammadu Buhari, recommending that the Judge must immediately proceed on compulsory retirement eventhough he would actually be officially due for retirement on April 8, 2018, when he would have clocked the 65 years mandatory retirement age.
However, NJC acknowledged that Justice Ademola had previously on October 10, forwarded to it, his notice of retirement against next year.
The Council said its decision to compulsorily remove Ademola from the bench was pursuant to findings on allegation contained in a petition that was written against him by a group of 8 persons under the name of Committee of Anambra State PDP House of Representatives Members-Elect.
According to NJC, the petitioner alleged that Ademola heard their Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2015 which was adjourned for judgement on 25thMarch, 2015;
“That on the adjourned date, His Lordship did not deliver the judgement but adjourned the case sine die, to await the decision of the Supreme Court on another matter on the same issue, on is the list of PDP candidates for Anambra State for the General Elections of 2015;
“That His Lordship speedily heard and delivered judgement in another case in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/254/2015 filed later on the same issues, with intent to confer undue advantage on the Plaintiff who is from a family with which the Respondent has relationship.”
“That the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement ultimately given to the petitioners contained a paragraph that was not read in open Court by the Hon. Judge and that a phrase was altered, all to address an issue raised in the appeal that had already been filed by the Petitioner before the issuance of Certified True Copy (C T C);
“That some of the reasoning and conclusions of the Hon. Judge were summersaults; That the Respondent finally delivered judgement in the case on 8th July, 2016, five (5) months after the Supreme Court delivered the judgement he was awaiting contrary to the Constitutional provisions that judgements should be delivered within a period of 90 days”.
NJC stressed that though the Petitioners subsequently withdrew their petitions in accordance with Regulation 16 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations of 9th March, 2017.
It said the “Council viewed His Lordship’s action of non-delivery of judgement within the stipulated time as misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and Rules 1.3 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
It said: “The public is hereby informed to disregard news circulating on some news media that Hon. Mr. Justice Ademola has voluntarily retired. The purported voluntary retirement is clearly an afterthought as Council had taken action before his decision to forward any voluntary retirement letter”.
Likewise, NJC stated that Mr. Justice Tokode of the same Federal High Court was also recommended to President Buhari for compulsory retirement from office with immediate effect sequel to findings of on allegation contained in petitions forwarded by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and one Miss Abimbola Awogboro.
“The Petitioners accused the Hon. Judge of misleading the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council, by submitting six judgements he claimed to have personally conducted while practising as a lawyer; a pre-requisite for his application for appointment as a Judicial Officer, and was so appointed.
“The Investigation Committee of Council however found that the Hon. Judge personally conducted only one of the six cases submitted. Therefore, Council decided to recommend his compulsory retirement and the refund of all salaries and allowances he earned since his purported appointment to the position of a Judge to the coffers of the Judiciary.
“In the interim, the National Judicial Council in exercise of its power under paragraph 21 sub-paragraph (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, has suspended Hon. Mr. Justices A. F. A. Ademola and O. O. Tokode from office with immediate effect.
“The Council also issued serious warning letters to Hon. Mr. Justice A. N. Ubaka of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria for failure to deliver Ruling in Suit No. NICN/BEN/51/2014 within the time specified time by law.
“The Council did not accept the reasons given for failure to deliver the Ruling within time.
“The Hon. Judge has also been placed on watch-list of the Council for the next one year.
“Council also gave a warning letter to Hon. Mr. Justice Zainab Aliyu Sadat of the High Court of Niger State and placed her on the watch-list for three years for claiming that the Defendant in Suit No: NHSC/MN/46/2016 failed to make available authority cited by them after submission of the argument to her.
“Council at the Meeting also decided to dismiss the petition written by Senator Alimodu Sheriff alleging that Hon. Mr. Justice A. Liman of the Federal High Court of corruption for his failure to honour the invitation of the Investigation Committee on the three occasions that he sat to investigate the matter.
“Council exonerated Hon. Mr. Justice Simon Akpah Amogeda of the Federal High Court from corruption allegation by Ernest J. Henry, who could not substantiate his allegation.
“The Council decided to write the Petitioner a warning letter for maligning the name of the Hon. Judge.
“In addition, Council exonerated Hon. Mr. Justice F. I. Kola-Olalere of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria from any misconduct in the petition written against him by Samuel Atotuomah. Hon. Mr. Justice B. B. Kanyip of the same Court was also exonerated of allegation of corruption written against him by Adebayo Jegede, Esq, who did not attend the Investigation Committee Panel to defend his allegation.
“The Council decided to report him to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for the unfounded allegation of corruption and the use of crude and insultive language against the Hon. Judge in his petition.
“The Petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Adama Iyayi-Laminkara, Chief Judge, Rivers State, Hon. Mr. Justice Maria Sanda Zukogi, Chief Judge, Niger State, Hon. Mr. Justice Eyo Effiom Ita, High Court, Cross River State, Hon. Mr. Justices S. A. Orugboyo and R. I. B. Adebiyi, High Court, Lagos State, were dismissed by the Council as all the Petitioners withdrew them and Council found no serious issues for further consideration in the allegations.
“Hon. Mr. Justice A. M. Lawal of Lagos State High Court was also issued a warning letter and placed on ‘watch-list’ for one year by the Council for unnecessary delay in delivering his Ruling and giving his personal phone number to parties.
“The petition written against Hon. Kadi Al-Hafis M. Abubakar of the Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal by Mr Ibrahim Mukhtar Mashi was dismissed by the Council for lack of merit.
“Council also directed Hon. Mr. Justice Linda Amina Yarosi of the Customary Court of Appeal to resume duty from her sick leave immediately and placed on ‘watch-list’ for 3 months.
“All Judicial Officers placed on ‘watch-list’ of the Council will not be elevated or considered for special assignments during the period they are on the list.
“Within that period, Council reserves the right to consider their suitability or otherwise to continue as Judicial Officers based on their performance”, the statement added.