Appeal Court Ruling: Document shows NJC cleared EFCC to probe, prosecute serving judges

National Judicial Coulcil byuilding used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Legalnaija]

The National Judicial Council did not object to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution of allegedly corrupt judges, a correspondence between the Council and the anti-graft agency obtained by PREMIUM TIMES has shown.

In a July 24, 2017 letter to the Commission, the NJC, the body saddled with disciplining erring judges, acknowledged being aware that some judges suspected of corruption were being investigated by the anti-graft body, with charges already filed against a number of them. 

As a mark of support for the investigation/prosecution of the judicial officials, the NJC told the EFCC that its leadership had decided that the affected judges should cease to perform judicial duties pending the conclusion of the cases involving them. 

The council further stated that on June 1, 2017, it took a decision that judicial officers against whom charges had not been filed be cleared to resume their duties pending when they are charged.

In the correspondence with the EFCC, the NJC noted that under its rules, disciplinary actions could only be commenced against a judicial officer upon receipt of a petition against such a judicial officer, adding that it had not received any against the judges in question. 

The NJC however permitted the anti-graft agency to proceed with the instant cases it was already handling, saying it had suspended those who had already been charged.

But it advised the anti-graft agency, to, in future, send petitions against judicial officers in respect of any matter of misconduct or corruption to enable it take appropriate disciplinary action. 

“The EFCC will be at liberty thereafter to take appropriate legal action against such judicial officers,” read the NJC letter signed by its Secretary, Ahmed Gambo Saleh. 

“It is important to note that the threshold of proof of misconduct before the National Judicial Council Disciplinary Committee is much lower than the threshold of proof of criminal conduct. The Council may, therefore, be in position to discipline any erring judicial officer even where such conduct may not be criminal in nature. 

“The Council is in the forefront of fighting corruption in the Judiciary and remains willing and ready to continue to collaborate with the EFCC and other investigative agencies to enable it efficiently discharge its function and rid the Judiciary of all erring and/or corrupt judicial officers.”

On Monday, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal ruled that the EFCC lacks the statutory powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such individuals have first been dismissed or retired by the NJC. 

According to the appellate court, serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like theft, fraud, murder or manslaughter, arson and the likes which are crimes committed the scope of judicial functions. But once the offence was allegedly committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by the NJC and dismissed or retired before the EFCC can investigate or prosecute them, the court said. 

The appellate court’s decision was in respect of a suit instituted by the EFCC against Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, a judge of the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, who was accused of unlawfully receiving $260,000 and N8.6 million, monies that were beyond his emoluments as a judicial officer, between 2013 and 2015.
 
“I need to emphasize that the Constitution of this country, being the grund norm, and fundamental legal order of the state clearly recognizes the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances,” said Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo, who delivered the lead judgment. 

“Sections 4, 5 and 6 thereof contains provisions relating to the legislative, executive and judicial arms of the government. 

“In most known democracy, the judiciary is always accorded the freedom to conduct its affairs without fear of interference, intimation (sic), threat, I’ll will from any other arm of government.”

The EFCC’s response to the ruling was a furious 120-word statement describing the decision as “ridiculous” and a “dangerous precedent.”

The EFCC’s response to the ruling was a furious 120-word statement describing the decision as “ridiculous” and a “dangerous precedent.”

Mr. Nganjiwa was arraigned last June by the EFCC on a 14-count charge of corrupt enrichment and giving false information to an EFCC officer. 

His arraignment came barely one week after he and five other judges were recalled by the NJC after they had earlier been suspended in November 2016 following corruption allegations against them. 


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  • Omooba Adekunle Orafidiya

    The plain truth is that NJC is complicit in this matter of shielding the many criminals on the Bench from justice. What if our legislators legislate that they can’t be prosecuted until the National Assembly so recommends? NJC and the Nigerian Judiciary are clearly pro-corruption. The doctrine of separation of powers is being given an absurd, preposterous and illogical interpretation in order to frustrate the ends of justice, which is shameful and condemnable. Our Judiciary, like a bad pregnancy, needs a total clear-out.

    • Manuel Tobby

      I never see those that were making noise here yesterday insulting efcc for not following procedure???

      • Omooba Adekunle Orafidiya

        What did you try to express in Greek language?

        • Manuel Tobby

          Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

      • share Idea

        Please did you read the part of the article below…

        “In the correspondence with the EFCC, the NJC noted that under its rules, disciplinary actions could only be commenced against a judicial officer upon receipt of a petition against such a judicial officer, adding that it had not received any against the judges in question.”…Nigeria we hail thee

  • Saydo Shan

    Nigerian Judges, do as you wish. There will be time of reckoning.

  • Arabakpura

    E spirite de corps has also taken firm root in the judiciary! Every other group including robbers and kidnappers should emulate the judges!

  • thusspokez

    The National Judicial Council did not object to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution of allegedly corrupt judges, a correspondence between the Council and the anti-graft agency obtained by PREMIUM TIMES has shown.

    What does it matter whether the NJC object or doesn’t object? Where in the Nigerian constitution does it say that serving judges are exempt from prosecution?

    • Law Guru

      @thusspokez:disqus

      Justice Adejumo who cried more than the bereaved

      Premium Times did a damn good job to reproduce the letter of the
      National Judicial Council (NJC) itself – written before Justice Adejumo of the Court
      of Appeal began crying more than the bereaved. The NJC admitted that it has only
      civil jurisdiction to conduct disciplinary proceedings of erring Judges who are facing
      misconduct charges and NJC further admits that it has no jurisdiction whatsoever
      to hear misconduct charges based on violation of criminal law. But according to
      Justice Adejumo, the word misconduct appearing in the bylaws of NJC confers NJC
      with 100% criminal jurisdiction even if nowhere in universal jurisdiction does the
      word MISCONDUCT listed in a statutory body’s disciplinary items confer criminal
      jurisdiction to the exclusion of a court of law.

      • Law Guru

        ……..more than the bereaved

        Justice Adejumo of the Court of Appeal then overlooked that written admission by NJC
        and just blithely turned the laws of Nigeria upside down, by (heinously) holding that NJC
        has criminal jurisdiction to hear the offences listed in the Criminal Code and further held
        that the NJC has “supremacy over all courts” whilst hearing criminal cases against
        serving judges.

        According to Justice Adejumo’s un-reasoned
        judgment it is the law enforcement agencies that must stay clear and do
        nothing until NJC exhausts its (supposed) criminal jurisdiction and recommends a serving
        judge for removal from office. No worse ignorant judgment has ever issued from a Nigerian court.
        For the NJC cannot confer criminal jurisdiction on itself when expressly lacking the statutory powers
        to convict, sentence, fine, or acquit.

        Worse daft is the implication of Justice Adejumo’s verdict, that no criminal investigation of a Judge
        can start if the NJC merely issues a letter of reprimand after hearing a case against an errant Judge. According to Justice Adejumo, only a removal order issued against an erring Judge can authorize the Police or the EFCC to commence investigations and prosecution of such a removed Judge but until then the unlimited constitutional jurisdiction of a High Court to try criminal cases must be suspended. No worse ignorant judgment has ever issued from a Nigerian court.

  • Olatubosun

    Nigeria has been sanitised