22nd August, 2011
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of violating his oath of office by appointing an Acting President of the Court of Appeal, even when there is no vacancy in the office and the whole process failed to meet constitutional stipulations.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the President’s action, which is clearly subjudice, amounts to a repudiation of the oath he took to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and uphold the rule of law.
It said the action also confirms the rumour making the rounds that the President may have been secretly pushing for the removal of Justice Ayo Salami, through some hawks in the NJC, over fears that the petition by the CPC presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari – which is being handled by the Court of Appeal – may go against him (Jonathan).
ACN said apparently the last straw for President Jonathan was the strong stance of the NBA, which asked him to ignore NJC’s recommendation on the retirement of Justice Salami, adding: ”Indications are that the unequivocal
action of the NBA jolted the President to act quickly to effect Justice Salami’s removal, in line with the prepared script.”
The party said President Jonathan exhibited executive recklessness when he acted on an issue that is pending before the court and also relied on a section of the Constitution that deals with appointment, rather than removal, to get rid of Justice Salami.
”Section 238 which the President relied on to remove Justice Salami and appoint an Acting President of the Court of Appeal deals with the appointment of President and Justices of the Court of Appeal if the office is vacant.
”Section 292 deals with the removal of top judicial officers, including the President of the Court of Appeal. In accordance with this section, the President can only remove any of the listed officers, acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate. In other words, it is not even the President, but the Senate, that can initiate the process upon the recommendation of the NJC.
”By rushing to remove Justice Salami on the strength of Section 238, the President has committed the same
faux pas as the NJC clique and violated the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has filled a post in which no vacancy exists, and allowed himself to be guided by political expediency, rather than the provisions of the constitution,” it said.
ACN said the crisis precipitated by the faceoff between Justice Salami and the Chief Justice of Nigeria provides the best opportunity yet for President Jonathan to show his strength of character and leadership qualities. On both counts, the President fell short.
”President Jonathan’s not-well-thought-out action will have a far reaching effect on the judiciary and the entire country, and will largely define his presidency. He may not have thought about this before he rushed into action,” the party said.