The suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami, did no wrong deserving any punishment, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, has said in a letter asking President Goodluck Jonathan to reverse the decision taken under former CJN, Aloysius Katsina-Alu.
In a January 27, 2012 letter, seen by Premium Times, the new CJN merged the outcomes of several judicial panels instituted under Mr. Katsina-Alu in late 2011, in which each found no wrongdoing against Mr. Salami.
The newest committee named by Justice Musdapher to review the findings and make recommendations, affirmed the decisions in favour of the suspended PCA, Salami, upon which the CJN now asks President Jonathan to act.
“On the whole, there was no evidence to show any form of misconduct on the part of Salami PCA to justify any sanction or punishment,” he wrote in a four-paged letter quoting the final committee’s report.
“It is not clear what other evidence was used or relied upon by the National Judicial Council at its emergency meeting of September 8, 2011 to suspend Salami from performing his duties as PCA.”
Reached by phone on Monday, the Supreme Court’s Chief Registrar, Sunday Olorundahunsi, refused to comment on the content of the letter.
In a way, the position of the Chief Justice appears to reverse an episode many practitioners on the bench and the bar, and analysts viewed as one of the judiciary’s most scandalous till date.
Although the president received the letter for more than two weeks now, it remains unclear still how he will respond to a matter over which he was scathingly criticized and accused of not handling properly.
President Jonathan was condemned for approving Mr. Salami’s removal and the appointment of an acting replacement even when the case was in court and had not been properly investigated.
The suspension last year, had been based partly on his refusal to be elevated to the supreme court, and more importantly, for speaking to the media and accusing the former CJN, Katsina-Alu, of attempting to interfere in the Sokoto governorship election case before the Appeal court.
But the collection of reports of the inquiries summarized to the president absolves Salami of breaching any rule. Rather, it criticizes Mr. Katsina-Alu in his capacity as CJN then, and also as the chairman of the National Judicial Council.
The three-member committee which undertook the review was headed by retired Justice Mamman Nasir(former PCA), under a broader judicial reform committee led by former CJN, Mohammed Uwais.
More than the previous panels, the Nasir committee, constituted after Mr. Katsina-Alu retired as the nation’s number one judge, somehow upheld Salami’s allegation that the feud between him and the CJN started with his refusal to influence the outcome of the Sokoto case which the CJN, Katsina-Alu had asked be “put on hold.”
“It became evident that Mr. Katsina-Alu’s administrative decision that the case should be put on hold, should not.. be made by him. In any case, the CJN should not in the first place have written direct to the Justices in Sokoto judicial division as the power to do so lies in the PCA,” the Nasir committee wrote.
Still, the attempt at reinstating Mr. Salami is said to be facing opposition within the judicial ranks.
Since the reports were released, three meetings to discuss the case have been put off after some members failed to reach a common position on the terms.