15th May, 2012
Since last Thursday when the National Judicial Commission, NJC decided to recall the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, to his position, there have been varied reactions to the decision.
Reactions have varied from those who lauded the NJC for its decision to those who considered the decision as suspicious and mischievous considering the number of cases in court over the matter.
Whatever opinion one holds, the fact is that the NJC which is the highest judicial organ in the country, has reviewed its decision in the controversy between the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu and the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
It will not be wrong to say that the NJC reversed itself after considering all the factors in the interest of rule of law in the country. Salami was suspended 18 August last year as President, Court of Appeal, when he refused to apologise to retired Justice Katsina-Alu, whom he accused of trying to influence the appeal court judgment on the Sokoto governorship election dispute.
A judicial panel set up by Justice Katsina-Alu to investigate the matter had accused Salami of not having enough evidence to substantiate his allegation that Justice Katsina-Alu tried to influence the outcome of the Sokoto governorship tussle at the Court of Appeal.
Salami was given seven days to apologise to Katsina-Alu but the erudite President of the Court of Appeal rejected the recommendations of the Justice Ibrahim Auta panel and went to court.
Salami asked the court to set aside the recommendations of the Auta panel and reinstate him as the President of the Court of Appeal. The matter is still in court.
On its part, the NJC, after the expiration of the ultimatum given, wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan asking him to suspend Salami as the President of the Court of Appeal. Two days after receiving the the NJC letter, President Jonathan suspended Salami as the President, Court of Appeal.
It’s over nine months that Salami was suspended and the same NJC that called for his supension has met and decided to reinstate him in the interest of the rule of law.
It is our opinion that this decision should be allowed to stand. Before arriving at its decision to reinstate Salami, we believe that members of the body must have considered the interest of all the parties. It is in this respect that we appeal to all those aggrieved to let the decision of the NJC stand in the interest of the rule of law.
It is pertinent to remind everyone that the period stipulated by the constitution for an acting President of the Court of Appeal is three months. The tenure of the current acting Appeal Court President, Justice Adamu Dalhatu, has elapsed constitutionally. He cannot adjudicate on any matter brought before the court as at now because of this legal stipulation.
Moreover, Justice Salami is expected to retire from the bench next year when he will be 70 years, the mandatory retirment age for judges in the country. He should be allowed to finish his term and retire grace fully.
We also call on the NJC to follow its decision with a letter to President Jonathan to reinstate Salami just like it did when it wrote for his suspension. The president should act quickly and reinstate Salami to his position.
In the light of the NJC decision to recall him, we implore Justice Salami to withdraw his suits against the NJC and others in order to pave way for his official reinstatement by President Jonathan.