Justice at last: Ayo Salami to be reinstated as President of Appeal Court

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President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami is to return to his job as the President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, nine months after his forced leave.

The National Judicial Council (NJC), which met yesterday in Abuja, adopted the recommendation for his reinstatement.

The recommendation has been sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for approval, it was learnt.

The meeting agreed with a five-member panel headed by the incoming Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar.

Details of the NJC meeting session were unknown, but a source said the recommendation was adopted in the interest of the judiciary and urge for a vibrant judiciary and best way forward.

The NJC had earlier constituted a committee led by Justice Alooma Muktar to help resolve the impasse created by the suspension of Justice Salami, which had created serious division within the nation’s judiciary.

The Alooma panel was mandated to liaise with all interested parties in the suspension saga crisis and submit a recommendation to the NJC for consideration.

The committee, which also had Olisa Agbakoba, a former President of the Civil Liberty Organization, as a member, reportedly met with the suspended judge and proposed that he accept to retire from the bench as a condition for his reinstatement.

However, there were  behind the closed door manoeuvrings as the former Appeal Court president was approached by the investigative committee to ascent to an agreement of a voluntary retirement briefly after his reistatement.

 “I know that the Justice Alooma committee told Justice Salami that they would recommend his recall, but they wanted him to agree to retire as soon as he was reinstated,” a source had confided in Sahara Reporters.

Justice Ayo Salami

 The source added tha that Justice Salami flatly rejected the condition, asserting that he was willing to continue his lawsuit against his illegal removal.

The source said that Justice Alooma, Justice Pius Aderemi (rtd), Rotimi Akeredolu and Mr. Agbakoba supported his position that he would not retire.

According to these sources who were part of the closed door meeting that Salami’s reinstatement, , there were stiff oppositions  to Justice Salami’s returned, spearheaded by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, the notorious judge who was used by former military dictator, Sani Abacha, to hand down a verdict that led to the execution of environmental rights activist and leader of the Movement for the Sovereignty of the Ogoni People, Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight other Ogoni activists.

President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Bodunrin Daudu, also joined Justice Auta in opposing Justice Salami’s reinstatement.

Justice Salami was suspended by the NJC on August 18, last year, following his refusal to apologise to the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, for allegedly lying on oath against him.

He had accused the former CJN of asking him to compromise the then Sokoto Court of Appeal hearing the appeal of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in favourt of Governor Aliyu Wamako.

The committee, headed by Justice Mukhtar, was saddled with the responsibility of reconciling Justice Katsina-Alu and Justice Salami.

It was also asked to review the recommendations of a 29-member stakeholders’ Judicial Reform Committee raised by the incumbent CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, on October 14, to review the crises in the judiciary recommended Justice Salami’s reinstatement.

The committee was headed by a former CJN, Justice Muhammadu Uwais.
A sub-committee of the panel, including Justice Mamman Nasir, Justice U. Kalgo and Justice Bola Ajibola had asked the CJN and the NJC to reinstate Justice Salami back to his position.

The Committee upheld the decisions of the sub-committee and recommended Justice Salami’s reinstatement.

Justice Salami is billed for retirement next year.

The 29-member Stakeholders Judicial Reform Committee, which okayed that Justice Salami return to office also recommended his reconciliation with Justice Katsina-Alu.

The committee also advised Justice Salami to withdraw all the cases he has instituted in court as part of the reconciliation being sought in the judiciary.

Other recommendations include:
•the appointment of CJN from outside the rank of the Justices of the Supreme Court should be considered by the Federal Judicial Service Commission;
•the need to reform the system of appointment of judges by giving preference to court room experience and decision in legal practice; and
•the number of years for which a lawyer needs to be qualified prior to consideration for appointment as a Judge of the High Court should be increased from 10 years to minimum of 15 years post-call experience, 20 years post-call experience for the Court of Appeal and 25 years post call experience for the Supreme Court.

Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi hailed the recommendation, saying truth has finally prevailed over falsehood.

Fayemi, in a statement last night, hailed the NJC for its uncommon courage. He also praised Justice Salami for his refusal to compromise despite the months of persecution.

He said the recommendation of Justice Salami has sounded the death knell for vote robbers.