9th February, 2011
The current crisis of confidence rocking the Nigerian judiciary following the rejection by theÂ President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, of his promotion to the Supreme Court, hasÂ to a great extent shown that like all human organisations, the judiciary itself is not immune fromÂ happenings in the larger society. To stretch this further, it means the countryâ€™s judiciary is aÂ reflection of the society in which it operates. It cannot lay claim to any high moral ground againstÂ other organisations or groups in the society.
This is why the controversy generated by the letter written by Justice Salami to the Chief Justice ofÂ Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, rejecting his so-called promotion to the apex court cannot beÂ treated in isolation of the recent happenings in the country. The crisis has to be examined in theÂ light of the court victories by the most vocal opposition party, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, inÂ Ekiti, Osun and Edo states against the ruling party in the country, PDP, and the rejection of theÂ judgments by chieftains of the ruling party dislodged in the states.
We dare say that Justice Salami is right in rejecting his â€œpromotionâ€ considering the circumstancesÂ surrounding it. These circumstances include the recent paid advertisement by Senator Iyiola Omisore, aÂ leading chieftain of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP, in Osun State, wherein he accused the judgesÂ of the Appeal Court which presided over the cases in Ekiti and Osun states of underhand dealings.
Like Justice Salami stated in his letter to Justice Katsina-Alu: â€œThe present unholy move to push meÂ out of the Court of Appeal for whatever reason has no precedence in our legal history. I do notÂ therefore think it will be fair for the Chief Justice of Nigeria to seek to create a dangerousÂ precedent which may give rise to chain reactions.â€™â€™
We agree with Justice Salami in this respect. When viewed from all perspectives, it will appear as ifÂ the erudite judge was being moved to serve as a punishment for making the ruling party lose threeÂ states as a result of the judgments delivered by judges of the appellate court.
Moreover, there are also insinuations that the attempt to promote Justice Salami into irrelevance wasÂ borne out of the desire of the Chief Justice to appoint his minion and a more pliable person into theÂ position of the President of the Court of Appeal.
It is our contention that in these trying times, nothing should be done to heat up the polity. As weÂ approach the April general elections, any potentially explosive issue capable of destablising theÂ polity or capable of eroding the confidence of Nigerians and the international community in theÂ administration of justice should be discarded.
Our plea is that President Goodluck Jonathan should intervene in the present crisis rocking the apexÂ courts and ensure that the status quo is maintained. Justice Salami should be retained as theÂ President of the Court of Appeal. He had made it known on several occasions that he is not interestedÂ in being elevated to the Supreme Court and that he would be fulfilled to retire as the President ofÂ the appellate court. His decision should be respected.