Salami vs NJC: Battle shifts to Appeal Court
On March 16, 2012 · In News

By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has assumed jurisdiction over the lingering dispute between the suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, and National Judicial Council, NJC.

The legal fireworks shifted to the appellate court, yesterday, following a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court in Abuja.

JUSTICE ISA AYO-SALAMI.

Justice Okorowo relied on the provisions of Section 295(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to stress that in view of the fact that issues raised before him by Justice Salami involved a substantial question of law, he had no option but to refer the matter to the higher court for determination.

Consequently, the trial judge stayed further proceeding on the suit seeking Salami’s reinstatement, pending the decision of the appellate court.

It will be recalled that Justice Salami and NJC had in their separate motions, urged the High Court to hands-off the suit on the grounds that some constitutional issues that emerged in the course of the proceedings, stripped the court of the jurisdiction to determine such issues.

Salami’s prayers

Whereas Salami urged the court to allow the appellate court to determine whether he was validly suspended from office or not, NJC, on the other hand, contended that only the National Industrial Court had the requisite jurisdiction to okay his reinstatement, maintaining that the subject-matter of the suit pertained to a dispute between an employer and his employee.

Ruling on the matter yesterday, Justice Okorowo said it would be in the interest of justice to allow the appeal court to determine “whether having regard to the provisions of sections 6(6)(b), 36, 251(q) and (r) and 254 (c) (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it is the Federal High Court or NIC that has jurisdiction to entertain this suit in which the plaintiff is seeking a determination of issues questioning the constitutionality and vires of the Investigative committee chaired by the 4th defendant and the administrative panel chaired by the 9th defendant, both set up by the NJC in respect of petitions written against the plaintiff concerning the exercise of his judicial powers.

Nevertheless, he declined to grant three other prayers sought by the embattled PCA, noting that doing so would amount to delving into the merit of the case.

Among questions the court refused to answer included “whether having regard to section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, the setting up and the proceedings of the Investigative Panel and the administrative panel are not a nullity in view of the fact that the 2nd Defendant (the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher), presided over the meeting of the 1st defendant (NJC) at which the Investigative Panel was set up, appeared as a witness against the plaintiff before the Investigative Panel and also presided over the meeting of the 1st defendant on 27th July, 2010 when the report of the Investigation Committee was received by the 1st defendant and the Administrative Panel was set up.

Listed as defendants in the suit were the NJC, the CJN, Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, Justice Edozie, Justice M. Akpiroroh, Mrs Rakia Sarki Ibrahim, Justice Ibrahim Auta, Justice Kate Abiri and Justice Peter Umeadi.

Meanwhile, counsel to the embattled PCA, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, yesterday, told newsmen that efforts were in top gear to reconcile the differences between his client and NJC out of court.

He disclosed that a panel constituted by the CJN had already recommended that Salami be reinstated, adding that the said panel had invited the PCA to appear before it next month to get his opinion on their decision.

View the original article here

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