Court To Decide Fate Of Salami's Case


A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja will on Thursday decide whether or not to transfer the suit instituted by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, against the National Judicial Council, NJC, and others over his sack.

This followed the dramatic turn of events as the NJC alongside the other respondents in the case on Wednesday, withdrew their opposition to an application brought before the court by Salami seeking for the referral of the matter to the Court of Appeal for determination and cleared the way for Salami’s application to be heard.

While withdrawing their opposition to the application, counsel representing the NJC, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate of Nigeria, lamented that the NJC had been vilified and portrayed as frustrating the speedy determination of the matter and orally applied for the withdrawal of NJC’s opposition so that the matter could proceed.

Ozekhome’s stance was subsequently adopted by other respondents in the matter and cleared the way for Justice Salami’s lawyers led by Chief Akin Olujinmi, also a senior advocater of Nigeria and former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to move their application.

This show of magnanimity on the part of the respondents apparently ran contrary to Olujinmi’s expectation as he was then compelled to move their application for the referral of some questions to the appellate court for determination.

After moving the application, Chief Olujinmi refused to allow the respondents room to reply to the application on points of law as is the usual practice.

This threw the court into confusion as the respondents took turns to decry the former Attorney General’s position on their rights to reply on points of law.

Olujinmi contended that Order 25 Rule 6 of the rules of the Federal High Court prescribes the procedure to adopt by a party in opposing an application and contended that having withdrawn their opposition to his application, the NJC and the other respondents are not entitled to reply to him on points of law.

Related News

Arguing against this submission, Ozekhome posited that the rule of the court is subject to the express provision of section 36 (1) of the nation’s Constitution which guarantees parties the right to fair hearing which entails hearing the other side.

He further contended that his withdrawal of his opposition to Salami’s application for referral does not translate to the withdrawal of his rights to reply on points of law.

The presiding judge, Justice Donatus Okorowo, intervened and resolved the issue in favour of the NJC and rejected Olujinmi’s position. The court held that Order 26 Rule 5 is subject to the provisions of the Constitution in section 36 (1) which provides for fair hearing and insisted that the rules of the court would not be allowed to prevent a party from being heard and subsequently overruled Chief Olujinmi.

In his reply to the application for referral, the NJC contended that the issues which the ousted President of the Court of Appeal seeks to refer to the Court of Appeal, outside the question on jurisdiction, border on the substantive matter which, according to Chief Ozekhome, require evidence to be taken and argued that the court cannot be called upon to transfer such questions to the Court of Appeal without first considering and determining them.

He argued that it is the decision of the trial court that can then be challenged at the appellate court. These questions border on whether or not the substance of Salami’s suit is not a matter to be resolved at the National Industrial Court being a case between an employer and an employee. He further argued that the court cannot refer such to the Court of Appeal because they deal with the very substance of the case upon which evidence must be taken and urged the court, if it is so willing, to refer only the question of jurisdiction to the appellate court and reject the other questions that relate to the substance of the case.

Chief Olujinmi on his part, urged the court to disregard Ozekhome’s submissions and insisted that the questions raised on behalf of his client for referral to the Court of Appeal satisfy all known parameters for reference and should all be referred to the appellate for determination.

Justice Okorowo subsequently adjourned till Thursday 15 March to rule on whether or not to transfer the questions to the Court of Appeal for determination.

By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja

Load more