Reps To Strip President Of Power To Remove Judges | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reps To Strip President Of Power To Remove Judges

malabu, SNEPCo, House of Representatives, Budget; poverty
Posted: Oct 14, 2016 at 4:20 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

* Arrest Of Judges Illegal, Unconstitutional, NBA Insists

Tony Ezimakor and Ahmed Musa

Abuja – Following controversy surrounding the arrest of senior judges and allegation of attempts to cow the judiciary by the executive arm, the House of Representatives Thursday embarked on a move to reduce the power of the president to sack judges.

Consequently, the House has called for the involvement of National Judicial Council (NJC) in the procedure for the removal of head of courts to avoid victimisation by the executive.

This followed the passage through second reading of a Bill entitled, “An Act Pursuant to Section 9 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to alter Section 292 (1) (A) and (i) (ii) to Include the National Judicial Council in the Procedure for the Removal of Heads of Courts established by the Constitution under Section 6 (5),” moved by Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad.

Before now, it was gathered that the NJC can only recommend an erring judge to the president, but the Bill if eventually passed seeks to empower the body to be fully involved in the discipline or removal of any erring judge.

Debating the general principles of the Bill, on the floor of the House during plenary, Thursday, Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad (APC, Kaduna) said, “The principal purpose of the proposed amendment is to ensure that judicial officers serving as heads of courts are not victimised through removal by Executive fiat acting in concert with the legislature without any established or verifiable evidence.”

The lawmaker argued that the objective of the Bill was to “subject judicial personnel serving as heads of courts established under Section 6 (5) of the Constitution not only to be removed at the whims of the Executive but also upon the advice of the National Judicial Council, so as to ensure consistency in the process.”

Datti explained, “On many occasions, judicial personnel have been removed from office on trumped-up allegations without recourse to a body charged with the constitutional responsibility to investigate and recommend appropriate disciplinary actions.

“Since the provisions in the Constitution did not give the National Judicial Council any role in the removal of heads of courts, it has left them at the mercy and whims of the Executive.”

The Bill, which was not subjected to extensive debate and contributions from members was therefore referred to the House Special Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, following its passage upon being put to question by Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the presiding Speaker.

Meanwhile, in a similar development, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Thursday restated its position on the arrests and detention of two Supreme Court justices and five other justices of the Federal High court by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) was illegal and unconstitutional.

The bar warned that the country’s judiciary should not be exposed to ridicule and disdain by security operatives under the guise of fighting corruption.

Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), president of the association at a media briefing in Abuja maintained that the invasion of the houses of the justices by masked security operatives at the wee hours of the night was improper, crude  and uncivilized.

He, however, stressed that members of the bar will not in any way condone acts that border on professional misconduct and indiscipline among actors on the bench and would not shield any judge said to have sidestepped the law.

That said,  the NBA boss posited that the justification of the action of the DSS by the presidency was lame and not tenable, urging it to always act within the confines of the law.

According to him, the rule of law was compromised in the manner the houses of the judges were invaded by the DSS operatives because under the constitution they have no power to dabble into economic matters as they did in the arrest.

According to him, under the constitution the DSS is empowered to look into issues of internal security and terrorism adding that the judges are not terrorists as such the clamp down on them was arbitrary.

On the claim that the NJC did not act on the intelligence report by the DSS on the judges, the NBA president said that the NJC is not accountable  to any organ of government.

He added that the NBA is not unaware of correspondence between the DSS and NJC, but said that dissatisfaction of the DSS is immaterial as it does not suggest that NJC did not do a thorough job.

“It is not our view that the DSS should ask the NJC to make available to it the copies of disciplinary proceedings against judges for its vetting. the NJC is not answerable to the DSS, it is not under its control and supervision.”

He maintained that the NBA is not against criminal investigation of judicial officers but that such action must be conducted in line with the rule of law and that any judge found wanting should be subjected to the laws of the land, “but we do not feel that the strategies of the DSS was proper.”

He also revealed that from investigation by NBA the two justices of the Supreme Court were not invited neither was there any complaints against them.

Mahmud also said that from the findings of the NBA, cases against four of the judges of the Federal High Court had been handled by the NJC and recommendations made for their punishment to the appropriate authority, while the case against a fifth judge was pending before the council.

Mahmud disclosed that a three-member task force committee has been set up by the NBA headed by former NBA presidents Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Olisa Agbakoba SAN, to make recommendations for stronger disciplinary action for erring judicial officers which would be passed on to the NJC. The committee has three weeks to submit its report.

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