Following recommendations from the National Judicial Council (NJC), President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the compulsory retirement of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and the dismissal from office of Justice O.O Tokode of the Benin Division of the Federal High Court.
According to a statement by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, the disciplinary actions on the two Justices are in pursuance of section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Justice O.O. Tokode is also to refund all salaries and allowances earned illegally from December 2, 2015 when he was sworn-in as a Judge of the Federal High Court to date.
“The President urges judicial officers to be alive to their responsibilities and eschew corruption in the discharge of their duties,” Mr. Shehu said.
In a separate statement, also signed by Mr. Shehu, President Buhari said he has commenced “the process of ensuring that persons, judges and justices recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointment into various Courts of Record in the instant are fit and proper, and are not under any disability to function as Judicial Officers.”
“The President’s position is in furtherance of the executive powers vested in him under Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, which allows him as the appointing authority to exercise same reasonably, taking all relevant factors into consideration,” the statement said.
“Nigerians are assured that President Buhari will issue his approval or otherwise as soon as the process of the background verification is completed.”
The NJC had at its meeting of December 6, 2017 recommended the compulsory retirement of Mr. Ademola and Mr. Tokode for professional misconducts.
The Council said Mr. Ademola who had forwarded his notice of retirement on October 10, 2017 to the Council against April 9, 2018, when he will attain the mandatory retirement age of 65 years was recommended for compulsory retirement from office pursuant to the findings by the Council on the allegation contained in the petition written against him by a group of eight persons under the name of Committee of Anambra State PDP House of Representatives members-elect alleging the following:-
· that His Lordship heard their Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2015 which was adjourned for judgement on March 25, 2015;
· that on the adjourned date, His Lordship did not deliver the judgement but adjourned the case sine die, to await the decision of the Supreme Court on another matter on the same issue, on is the list of PDP candidates for Anambra State for the General Elections of 2015;
· that His Lordship speedily heard and delivered judgement in another case in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/254/2015 filed later on the same issues, with intent to confer undue advantage on the Plaintiff who is from a family with which the Respondent has relationship;
· that the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement ultimately given to the petitioners contained a paragraph that was not read in open Court by the Hon. Judge and that a phrase was altered, all to address an issue raised in the appeal that had already been filed by the Petitioner before the issuance of Certified True Copy (C T C);
· that some of the reasoning and conclusions of the Hon. Judge were summersaults;
· that the Respondent finally delivered judgement in the case on 8th July, 2016, five (5) months after the Supreme Court delivered the judgement he was awaiting contrary to the Constitutional provisions that judgements should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
· Though the Petitioners withdrew their petitions in accordance with Regulation 16 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations of 9th March, 2017, Council viewed His Lordship’s action of non-delivery of judgement within the stipulated time as misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and Rules 1.3 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On Justice Tokode, the NJC said he was recommended for compulsory retirement from office with immediate effect sequel to the findings of Council on the allegation contained in petitions forwarded by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Abimbola Awogboro.
The council said, “The petitioners accused the Judge of misleading the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council, by submitting six judgements he claimed to have personally conducted while practising as a lawyer; a pre-requisite for his application for appointment as a Judicial Officer, and was so appointed.
“The Investigation Committee of Council however found that the Judge personally conducted only one of the six cases submitted.
“Therefore, Council decided to recommend his compulsory retirement and the refund of all salaries and allowances he earned since his purported appointment to the position of a Judge to the coffers of the Judiciary.”