NJC Suspends Two Judges Amidst Allegations Of Corruption, Ineptitude

The National Judicial Council has asked President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State to  sack Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos and Justice T.D. Naron of the High Court of Justice respectively.

The two judges have already been suspended by the NJC, for delivering judgements the council said “were embarrassing to the judiciary”.

Justice Naron decided on the governorship tussle between the former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the incumbent Governor Rauf Aregbesola where the NJC found him guilty  of being in constant contact with the counsel to Oyinlola, Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN) through telephone, MMS and SMS messages.

Justice Archibong, on the other hand, was the presiding judge in a case against the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, where he controversially dismissed the grievous corruption charges against Akingbola even without taking the banker’s plea and also refusing to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to lawyers.

The Acting Director, Information of the NJC, Mr Soji Oye said the Council took the decision at an emergency meeting in Abuja.

The statement read: “Hon. Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, pursuant to the findings by the council on the following complaints leveled against him:

“That the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused person (Erastus Akingbola) without taking his plea.

“That he refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to the lawyers.

“That the judge issued a bench warrant on some officials of the Peoples Democratic Party for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them an affidavit had not been able to serve the contempt application.

“That he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

“That there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court.

“That he granted the leave sought in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier overruled the preliminary objection.”

As regards the suspension of Justice Naron, the statement said there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of mms and sms messages between the judge and one of the lead counsels during the election petition tribunal sitting in Osun.

“(The communication was) for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal. Call logs of JusticeNarons’s phone was said to have shown that he was in constant communication with Kalejaiye.He later dismissed the petitioner’s claim and declared Oyinlola the validly elected winner of the 2007 governorship election in Osun.

“The actions of Justice Naron were contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers vide Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“The National Judicial Council has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution suspended the two judges from office with immediate effect,” Oye said.

Oyinlola’s victory at the petition tribunal was later overturned by the Court of Appeal which declared Aregbesola the authentic winner of the election.

Also, the Council has set up a committee to investigate allegations against Justice Abubakar Talba who recently gave a convicted pension thief, Mr. John Yusuf, an option of N750, 000 fine for conniving with others to defraud the Police Pension Office of N27.2bn, which generated public uproar with civil society groups condemning the judgment.

Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana and the Coalition of Lagos Lawyers commended the decision of the judges to recommend the sack of the judges.

Falana, in a statement he released on Thursday, described the decision of the NJC as a “determined move to restore confidence in the Judiciary of the country.”

“The NJC has sent a clear message that the days of judicial impunity are over. We therefore call on President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Jonah Jang to approve the retirement of Justice Archibong and Justice Naron respectively as recommended by the NJC,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman of the coalition, Adeniran Debo, in a statement said, “This is a giant stride by the NJC to rid our bench of the bad eggs. It is a welcome development that the NJC is now waking up to its responsibilities. The sack of Justice Naron and his colleague will go a long way to restore the hope of the masses in the judiciary.

“It is however worthy of note that these two judges are not the only ones delivering kangaroo judgment, the NJC should beam its searchlight on other judges who have become compromised and flush them out of the bench, if we must win the war against electoral and other forms of corruption in the country.”

The Herald NG

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