Falana objects NJC on claim of lack of mandate to suspend judges accused of corruption

    For claiming that it’s only constitutionally mandated to process and recommend to the Executive at the Federal and State levels, appointment and or removal of judicial officers from office and not to sanction them on offences, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has come under the attack of a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana.
    Falana, had faulted the claim by the National Judicial Council that it cannot suspend
    judges involved in allegations of corruption.
    The NJC had made the claim in response to advice by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on the seven judges arrested by the State Security Service after their homes were raided on October 7, over allegations of corruption.
    In the aftermath of the arrests, the NJC described the development as a denigration of the judiciary, adding that the council would not succumb to any form of external intimidation.
    The NBA, in an initial decision also condemned the arrests. But it later called for the suspension of the affected judges pending the determination of the allegations against them.
    In its reaction, the NJC described the reported financial allegations against the judges in the media as “judgements of the court of public opinion” and added that the demand by
    the NBA was unacceptable.
    “NJC is constrained to inform the general public that its constitutional mandate is to process and recommend to the Executive at the Federal and State levels, the appointment, and or the removal of judicial officers from office, including exercise of its disciplinary control of suspending and or warning judicial officers; after complying with due process and the Rule of Law.
    “Since the creation of NJC vide the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, it has exercised its powers and performed its functions within its constitutional limitations.
    “Thus, the current position of the Nigerian Bar Association vis-à-vis its recommendation that the affected Judicial Officers involved in the on-going investigation of Judicial Officers by the DSS, be requested to proceed on compulsory leave until the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings against them, is unacceptable to the NJC; as it breaches the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended,” the NJC said.
    In a statement on Monday, Mr. Falana said NJC had subscribed to allegations from the public in the past and had powers to give interim suspension, following allegations of corruption.
    “Notwithstanding the gravity of the allegation of judicial corruption and the far reaching implication for the image of the nation’s judiciary, the NJC has not deemed it fit to institute any inquiry into the matter on the grounds that the SSS has not submitted any report to it. Thus, the NJC has allowed the allegation of judicial corruption to continue to hang menacingly on the heads of the judges like a sword of Damocles. However, the NJC has held an emergency meeting to review the arrest of the judges.