There have been different views expressed on the pages of newspapers on who lied on oath in the controversies surrounding the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Hon. President of Court of Appeal on the basis of National Judicial Council Panel Report.
For a proper appraisal of the position taken by Hon. Justice Umaru Abdullahi’s Panel Report, it is pertinent to take a look at some paragraphs of the affidavit sworn to by both the CJN and PCA.
The CJN in his affidavit sworn to on the 7th of March, 2011 deposed on oath as follows:-
“7(i) That I did not any time whatsoever interfere in any form or manner with the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal.
(iii)That one of the complaints in the petitions was that the judgment about to be delivered by the Court of Appeal in respect of the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal had leaked.
(vi) That I therefore, called the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal by telephone to come to my Chambers.
(vii)That when Hon. President of the Court of Appeal came to my Chambers, in the presence of Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, I told him I had received a complaint that the judgment to be delivered in respect of the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal had leaked.
(viii)That the Hon. President of Court of Appeal, Justice I.A. Salami, OFR admitted that the judgment had leaked.
(ix)That I showed him the petitions I had received in respect of the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal and told him that the only way to maintain the integrity of the Court was to reconstitute the panel, as that was the proper cause of action to take.
(xvii)That the only step I took in my capacity as the Chairman, National Judicial Council, was to direct, vide letter No. NJC/CA/DM/IV/48 of 19th February, 2010, that the judgment that was to be delivered in the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Petition Appeal ‘be put on hold’ pending the investigation of the petitions I had received. That I did not, in the letter under reference, direct the Panel on the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal not to deliver judgment.”
The depositions contained in the CJN’s affidavit were controverted by the President Court of Appeal in his affidavit sworn to on the 31/3/2011 in the following depositions:-
“4.(iii)That to my knowledge, there were no allegation of judgment leakage and no judgment, whether actual or leaked was shown to me by the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria.
(iv)That with particular reference to the deposition in paragraph 7(viii) of the aforesaid affidavit of Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, I did not admit (to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria) that the judgment in the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Appeal had leaked.
(v)The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria actually instructed me to direct the Panel of Justices hearing the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Appeal panel to dismiss the Appeal which I told him I could not do.
(vii)The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria instructed the Justices of the Court of Appeal in the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Appeal panel not to deliver judgment which had been reserved.
5(i)That it was on the 8th day of February, 2010 that the Hon. Chief Justice invited me to his office.
(vi)That each of the petitions Annexures 2 and 3 is dated 15th day of February, 2010, seven (7) day after the Hon. Chief Justice called me to his office in the presence of Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher.
(vii)That as at 8th day of February, 2010 there was no petition against me on any issue.”
At page 96 Paragraph ‘U’ of the Report, it was found that there was no evidence of leakage of judgment that was about to be delivered in Sokoto Gubernatorial Appeal. It was also found that the petitions did not state that there was leakage of judgment. Above all, from the uncontroverted deposition in the affidavit of the President Court of Appeal, the petitions upon which the Chief Justice of Nigeria purported to have asked the President Court of Appeal to disband the Sokoto State Appeal Panel was not in existence at the time the CJN called the President to his office and ‘advised’ him to disband the panel.
Who then is lying on Oath in the present circumstances?
With the finding of the NJC Panel headed by Hon. Justice Umaru F. Abdullahi CON, it is crystal clear that the depositions contained in the CJN’s affidavit are not true. The CJN therefore lied on Oath. The aforesaid affidavit, having woefully failed to establish any allegation of leakage of the said judgment, the only valid and correct position is the affidavit of the PCA. If the petitions upon which the CJN based his directive were not in existence, the only conclusion is that he called the PCA to prevail upon him to take certain steps in the Sokoto State Election Petition Appeal, an act which was not based on any complaints by the parties to the petition.
Paragraph ‘K’ of page 85 is to the effect that the CJN and NJC have no constitutional powers to interfere in any proceedings of a legally constituted Court. Paragraph ‘M’ of the same page 85 is to the effect that the CJN acted in good faith. It is noteworthy to observe that lack of statutory or Constitutional powers to support an action negates good faith. It is therefore absurd for the panel to conclude that the CJN acted in good faith.