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War Between Presidency, NJC Over Recall of Suspended Judges Heightens

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Wsj
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War Between Presidency, NJC Over Recall of Suspended Judges Heightens

Unread postby Wsj » Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:28 pm

The war between the Presidency and the National Judicial Council (NJC) over the propriety of recall of six suspended judges by the NJC heightened Monday night.
This is as Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, refuted claims credited to the NJC that office of the Attorney General failed to file Notice of Appeal against Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who was discharged and acquitted by a high court of corruption charges.
In a response to earlier claims by Obono-Obla last Thursday that the council could not claim it was unaware of pending appeals against Justice Ademola, filed since April, the NJC had responded last Saturday that there was nothing like that hence the recall of the High Court Judge.
According to a statement on Saturday, signed by the NJC Director of Communication, Soji Oye, said: “Council is particularly concerned about the Press statement issued by Okoi Obono-Obla, Esq, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution on 8th June, 2017; that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed a Notice of Appeal against the Ruling of Hon. Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for discharging and acquitting Hon. Justice A. F. A. Ademola and 2 ORS on 7th April, 2017.
“Contrary to the above statement, the Registry of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja, informed the Department of Information of the National Judicial Council that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation filed two Notices of Appeal in the Court; the first one on 7th April, 2017, against Hon Justice A. F. A. Ademola, his wife, Olabowale Ademola and Joe Agi, SAN. The second one was filed on 6th of June, 2017, two days after the Press Release was issued by the National Judicial Council, with additional grounds of appeal against only Hon. Justice A.F.A. Ademola.
“It is on record that when the Parties were invited by High Court of the FCT for settlement of records to be transmitted to the Court of Appeal on 18th April, 2017, the Appellant failed to turn up. The Registrar of the Court further adjourned the settlement of records to 21st April, 2017, and invited all the Parties, but the Appellant again did not come to Court. The total number of 45 days allowed for compilation of record in all circumstances expired on 7th May, 2017, for the Registrar of the Lower Court and 22nd May, 2017, for the Appellant.
“Council noted that the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice only filed additional grounds of appeal in the Court on Tuesday 6th June, 2017, three days after the Press Release by the Council that the Judicial Officers have been directed to resume their Judicial duties. It was on 6th June, 2017, that letters were again issued by the Registrar to the Parties for settlement of records against 14th June, 2017,” the statement said.
“For avoidance of doubt, by the Rules of the Court of Appeal, there cannot be a proper appeal before the Court until Parties have agreed and settled records before the Lower Court and transmit copies of such records to the Court of Appeal before an appeal number is given. It is only after an appeal number is given that an appeal is said to be entered in the Court of Appeal.
“The Council confirmed from Registry of the Court of Appeal that there is no such Appeal till date. The only matter that is pending is a Motion with Number CA/A/371M/CR/2019 filed by Joe Odey Agi, SAN, against the Federal Republic of Nigeria seeking the dismissal of Appellant/Respondent appeal between the Federal Government of Nigeria Vs Joe Odey Agi for failure to transmit the Records from the Lower Court within 45 days.
According to the statement, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation had filed charges against two Supreme Court Justices and Ademola at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in February, but letter withdrew the charges against one of the Supreme Court Justices, Inyang Okoro, and Mr. Ademola, with a motive to amend the charges.
“Council is aware that at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Federal Government filed Suits against Hon. Justices N. S. Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court and A. F. A. Ademola of the Federal High Court on 8th February, 2017.
“However, the Federal Ministry of Justice later withdrew the files pertaining the Suits against Hon. Justices Inyang Okoro and A. F. A. Ademola, with the intention of filing additional evidence against them.
“In the case of Hon. Justice Ngwuta, he has since been arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for non-declaration of his assets” the statement said.
However, on Monday Obono-Obla declared the NJC statement contained “false assertions”
Read Obono-Obla reply below:
I wish to debunk some of the assertions contained in the statement issued by Soji Oye, Director of Information, National Judicial Council (NJC) which was widely reported in the media on Monday the 12th June, 2017.
One of such false assertions by Soji Oye is the claim “that the Office of Attorney General of the Federation had on two occasions April 18, 2017 and April 21, 2017 shunned invitations by the Federal Capital Territory High Court for settlement of records of appeal which if it had done would have elevated the notices of appeal to proper appeal’’.
Undoubtedly, the statement of Soji Oye is a deliberate misrepresentation of the law and facts.
On the contrary, the FCT High Court registry by a Notice dated 6 June, 2017 signed by one Paul A. Edili, Esquire (Head of Appeal) invited both parties to the appeal to attend Court on the 14 June, 2017 for the purpose reconciliation of records of appeal.
It goes without saying that the assertion of Soji Oye that the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation had on two occasions viz, April 18, 2017 and April 21 2017, respectively shunned the invitation of the FCT High Court registry is not correct.
I challenged Soji Oye to furnish us with proof of service of these notice which the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation shunned.
It is obvious that Soji Oye in his haste to defend the indefensible muddled up the law concerning the role of an Appellant and the registry of the Court where an appeal is emanating from.
In the interest of the discerning public and the need to the record straight, I wish to state as follows:
1. By Order 8 of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2016, the Registrar of the Court below has a duty to compile and transmit the Record of Appeal to the Appeal Court. This he has 60 days to do; commencing from the day the Notice of Appeal is filed. And it is immaterial that parties do not attend court for purpose of settlement of the said Record.
2. It is only where the Registrar fails or neglects to transmit the Record of Appeal in accordance with Order 8, Rules 1-3, that the Appellant may intervene upon the expiration of the initial 60 days, to compile and transmit the Record of Appeal. And the Appellant has additional 30 days to do so. See Order 8, Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2016.
3. In the instant case, I am unaware of any notice for settlement of Record of Appeal served on the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation apart from that issued on the 6th day of June, 2017 against the 14th day of June 2017, just after the filing of Additional Notice of Appeal. And even that was issued at the instance of the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation.
4. But assuming there was any notice for settlement of Record of Appeal, the failure of the Appellant to attend court for settlement of the said record would not prevent the Registrar of the Lower Court from performing his duty in line with Order 8, Rule 2 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2016.
5. If the Notice of Appeal was filed on the 7th day of April, 2017, the Registrar of the Lower Court had 60 good days (under the Rules) expiring on 7th June, 2017 to settle and transmit the Record of Appeal. In fact, with the filing of Additional Notice of Appeal on 6th June 2017, the Registrar now has additional 60 days terminating on or about 6th August 2017 to settle and transmit the Record of Appeal. It is only if, and when, the Registrar fails to compile and transmit the Record within 60 days effective from 6th June 2017, that the Appellant may step in to so do within additional 30 days.
6. The NJC cannot feign ignorance of the Rules of the Court it supervises. The assertion that it is a total of 45 days that is allowed for compilation of Record of Appeal in all circumstances is, with respect, utterly false.
7. We are therefore afraid (in the light of the foregoing), that the decision of the NJC to recall Hon. Justice Ademola against whom there is a valid and subsisting Notices of Appeal at this moment is, to say the least, premature, ill-timed and ill-fated.
8. Order 6 Rule 10 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2016 also stipulates that “an Appeal shall be deemed to have been brought when the Notice of Appeal has been filed in the Registry of the Court below”. Thus while it is the duty of the Appellant to bring an Appeal, the onus of entering the Appeal is primarily that of the Lower Court Registry. And it does that by compiling and transmitting the Record of Appeal to the Court of Appeal. And if it fails; it is trite in law that the sins or laxity of the Court registry cannot be visited on a litigant (or APPELLANT AS IN THIS CASE).
The NJC had on June 4, after its 82nd meeting, recalled six Judges including Justice Ademola.
Some of the Judges were suspended after a search was carried out at their residences by the State Security Service on October 7, 2016. Three of the affected judges were later arraigned for alleged corruption.
The charges against Ademola were later dismissed after five months of accelerated trial at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
But the presidency expressed concerns with the decision to recall the Judges.


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