NJC Suspends Two Judges Over Oyinlola, Akingbola Case

The National Judicial Council has asked President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State to sack two judges – Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and Justice T. D. Naron of the High Court of Justice, Plateau State respectively.

The two judges had delivered controversial judgments that many described as embarrassing to the judiciary.

While Naron drew the  anger of the NJC over his handling of the governorship tussle between ex-Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and the incumbent Governor Rauf AregbesolaArchibong’s sin lied in his controversial ruling in the case involving a former managing director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola.

The NJC said it found that Naron was in constant contact with Oyinlola’s counsel, Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), through telephone, MMS and SMS messages, while Archibong was said to have dismissed the grievous corruption charges against Akingbola even without taking the banker’s plea. He also refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to lawyers.

A statement from the Acting Director, Information, in the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, said the Council took the decision at an emergency meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.

Oye, in the statement said, “Hon. Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, pursuant to the findings by the council on the

following complaints levelled against him:

“That the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused person (Erastus Akingbola) without taking his plea.

“That he refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to the lawyers.

“That the judge issued a bench warrant on some officials of the Peoples Democratic Party for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them an affidavit had not been able to serve the contempt application.

“That he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

“That there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court.

“That he granted the leave sought in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier overruled the preliminary objection.”

As regards the suspension of Justice Naron, the statement said there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of mms and sms messages between the judge and one of the lead counsels during the election petition tribunal sitting in Osun.

“(The communication was) for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal.”

Call logs of Mr. Narons’s phone was said to have shown that he was in constant communication with Kalejaiye.

He later dismissed the petitioner’s claim and declared Oyinlola the validly elected winner of the 2007 governorship election in Osun.

Mr. Oyinlola was, however, later sacked by the Court of Appeal which declared Aregbesola the authentic winner of the election.

The statement added that Naron’s action was contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers vide Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“The National Judicial Council has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution suspended the two judges from office with immediate effect,” he said.

Also, the Council has set up a fact-finding committee to investigate allegations brought against Justice Abubakar Talba of a Federal Capital Territory High Court, who recently gave a convicted pension thief, Mr. John Yusuf, an option of N750, 000 fine for conniving with others to defraud the Police Pension Office of N27.2bn.

The light sentence had generated public uproar with civil society groups condemning the judgment.

 Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Thursday commended the CJN for the decision of the NJC to recommend the sack of the judges.

Falana in a statement on Thursday described NJC’s decision as “a determined move to restore confidence in the Judiciary of the country”.

 “The NJC has sent a clear message that the days of judicial impunity are over. We therefore call on President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Jonah Jang to approve the retirement of Justice Archibong and Justice Naron respectively as recommended by the NJC,” he added.

Also, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders has commended the NJC for its recommendations.

The Executive Chairman of the coalition, Adeniran Debo, in a statement said, “This is a giant stride by the NJC to rid our bench of the bad eggs. It is a welcome development that the NJC is now waking up to its responsibilities. The sack of Justice Naron and his colleague will go a long way to restore the hope of the masses in the judiciary.

“It is however worthy of note that these two judges are not the only ones delivering kangaroo judgment, the NJC should beam its searchlight on other judges who have become compromised and flush them out of the bench, if we must win the war against electoral and other forms of corruption in the country.”

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