The president of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Ayo Salami, has been dismissed. In a poorly constituted meeting of the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) held in Abuja today, the body ordered Justice Salami to relinquish his post to an “Acting president of the Court of Appeal” with immediate effect.
The decision came amidst a long running squabble with the NJC after Justice Ayo Salami accused outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu of corruption. Justice Salami had alleged that Justice Katsina-Alu asked him to compromise the Sokoto State Governorship Election Petition by rigging the judgment in favor of the sitting governor. He also instituted a lawsuit against CJN, AGF, NJC and FJSC asking the court to stop his elevation to the Supreme Court.
Following a review of the allegation, the NJC had asked Justice Salami to apologize to the Chief Justice for making those allegations. Justice Salami refused to apologize to the Chief Justice. He instead sued the NJC asking the court to bar the judicial body from taking a decision on his case.
The NJC refused to accept Justice Salami’s court summons for days. When the NJC finally accepted the summons, it claimed in newspaper ads that the summons was neither signed nor dated, SaharaReporters learns that NJC officials actually doctored the writs. Also, the NJC curiously claimed it had received a letter from the federal high court where Justice Salami purportedly withdrew his court case thereby clearing the wauy for the body to sit.
The NJC met without its acting president, Justice Dahiru Musdapher who was in Saudi Arabia attending the lesser Hajj. Also absent was Justice Ibrahim Auta, the federal high court chief judge who authored the report that requested Justice Salami to apologize to the CJN. To avoid participating in today's activities he had travelled to India. Today’s meeting was chaired by Justice M.A. Bello, the president of the Customary Court of Appeal judge. Saharareporters was informed that lawyers who were members of the council were barred from the meeting because it involved disciplinary action against a judge.
The law that established the NJC did not give the body power to remove or suspend a judge. NJC is required to send its recommendation to the president. Justice Salami’s removal from office today means that the judge won’t be able to preside over the presidential election petition tribunal which is currently looking into complaints about the April 2011 general elections.
The NJC named Justice Dalhatu Adamu as the new acting PCA. He takes over from Justice Salami effective immediately.