Former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, has said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was not directly involved in the removal of Ayo Salami, an ex-president of the Court of Appeal.
He said Mr Jonathan “did not have any interest in hounding Mr Salami”.
Mr Adoke, who served under Mr Jonathan from 2010 to 2015, said this in his book, ‘Burden of Service –Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Former Attorney-General’.
He said he was the one who advised Mr Jonathan “to act no further as the matter is sub-judice since it had already reached the court.”
Mr Salami was suspended following his alleged disclosure to the media of an attempt by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloysius Katsina-Alu, to influence the Sokoto governorship election matter pending before the court at the time.
Based on the recommendations of Justice Ibrahim Auta-led panel which investigated petitions against Messrs Salami and Katsina-Alu respectively, the former was found guilty.
Mr Salami was accused of lying on oath against the then CJN and asked to apologise to Mr Katsina-Alu within seven days.
The panel’s recommendation was received by the NJC on August 9, 2011.
While that matter was pending in court, the NJC held an emergency meeting on August 18 with most of its principal members absent and suspended Mr. Salami.
He was immediately replaced with an acting appeal court president, Dalhatu Adamu.
Mr Adoke said after the constituted NJC panel had found Mr Salami guilty of misconduct, Mr Jonathan accepted the recommendations and was about transmitting it to the 7th Senate chambers for the required two-thirds majority confirmation.
He said at the time, Mr Salami had approached the Federal High Court to challenge the recommendations of the panel.
”At that juncture, I advised the president that he could act no further on the matter pending the outcome of the court case.
”I make bold to state categorically that the allegation that President Jonathan hounded Salami out of office was not true. The President was not interested in hounding anybody. Quite the reverse. He (Mr Jonathan) was very sad.
”Even the Northern bigwigs in the profession, both retired and serving, such as Justice Mohammed Uwais, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, Justice Mamman Nasiru and Justice Mustapha Akanbi, all attempted to broker peace with no success,” the senior lawyer said.
Mr Adoke said prior to Mr Salami’s suspension, “Mr Jonathan had to act under Section 235(4) of the1999 Constitution that permits the president to appoint appoint the most senior Justice of the Court of Appeal if the office is vacant.”
The constitution states: ”If the office of the President of the Court of Appeal is vacant or not able to perform his duties for any reason until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior Justice of the Court of Appeal to perform those functions.”
Political in nature
Mr Adoke blamed political motives for how the matter turned out.
”That was what the president did (Mr Jonathan). Justice Salami was unable to return to his seat because he was on suspension awaiting retirement or the outcome of the suit he instituted. It was a fairly straightforward case.
”But because political motives were read into it, many were not convinced that the due process was followed,” he said.
The former AGF in his book also unveiled the reason why the then CJN, Dahiru Musdapher‘s moves to reinstate Mr Salami back as the president of the Appeal Court failed.
He said former President Jonathan had already acted on the recommendation and was awaiting the determination of the court case.
”When Justice Dahiru Musdapher became the CJN, he, along with some members of the NJC, tried to see if Samlami could be recalled. He did write to the president on it. Regrettably, that line of action did not succeed. Not only did the NJC suspended Justice Salami, but the body also recommended his retirement.
”The President had already acted on the recommendation and was awaiting the determination of the court case instituted by Justice Salami so that the process could be completed. Mr Adoke wrote on page 187 of his book.”
Mr Adoke explained that Mr Jonathan would have accepted to the request of the NJC at that time “only if Mr Salami was only suspended without the recommendation to compulsory retire him by the panel.”
”The NJC, having recommended his retirement, had become irrelevant in the matter and could no longer act on it or take back its prescription,” Mr Adoke said.
”Had it been that it was a mere suspension without the recommendation to compulsorily retire him, the president could have assented to the request of the NJC.
”The NJC was advised to wait for the outcome of the court case – but this never saw the light of the day owing to the lack of diligent prosecution on the part of Justice Salami’s lawyer,” he added.