The calls to reinstate the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami continued last week, as human rights activists and lawyerswrote the new Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher , urging him to reverse the suspension.
A Non-Governmental Organisation,Access to Justice (AJ) in a letter to the new CJN, stated that it is within the powers of Justice Dhairu, to reverse the suspension, so as to restore the sanity of the Judiciary.
The group said the reform of the Judiciary must begin from the reconciliation of the Bar and the Bench, in the general interest of the judiciary, for the peaceful resolution of the recent crisis involving the NJC, NBA and Justice Salami.
The letter reads, “There is, as far as we know, no motion pending before the Senate for the removal of Justice Salami, pursuant to Section 292 of the Constitution, and the current status quo is that Justice Salami’s suspension can be withdrawn.”
“Fortunately, it is not late to reverse the NJC’s decision on Justice Salami. President Goodluck Jonathan himself, to whom the NJC wrote, recommending Justice Salami’s retirement, realising that the NJC’s decision is arguably impeachable, had chosen to only appoint an acting President of the Court of Appeal, pursuant to Section 238(4) of the Constitution, who would only hold office for not more than three months, ‘pending when all issues relating to the office of President of the Court of Appeal are resolved’.
“There is room, therefore, to back-track and rescind the decision on Justice Salami; now is the time too, to pull the country back from the edge of the precipice,where the Council’s actions had led it, and commence a confidence-building and reform process that will win back public faith and confidence in the Council, and indeed justice institutions overall.
“Afterwards, Your Lordship would need to undertake a number of reforms that have the potential to guarantee much greater independence and integrity in the NJC and the Judiciary as a whole,” the group said.
Also, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, while calling on the new CJN, saidJustice Dahiru , having been a private legal practitioner, former Attorney-General, who rose through the ranks on the Bench to become CJN, is in good stead to achieve a healthy liaison with the Bar.
Falana said the Bench and the Bar must rise to the occasion and the CJN has a prime role in this regard, in the overall interest of the country, in the task of moving the judiciary forward.
In accepting the challenge, Justice Musdapher promised to make the judiciary one of the best in the world. No doubt, Justice Musdapher is taking over the Judiciary when the institution it is at its lowest ebb.
“But, having not taken part in the illegal decision of the NJC to suspend President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami from office, contrary to the well-established legal principle of not pre-empting matters that are pending in courts, the acting Chief Justice is advised to explore an amicable resolution of the self-inflicted crisis in the judiciary.
“The new Chief Justice should move speedily to attack judicial corruption, congestion of cases and the mockery of the criminal justice system by influential accused persons, whose cases are allowed to drag on indefinitely in courts.” He said.