Osun, Ekiti: Oyinlola, Oni lose at NJC Panel

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Jul 28, 2011 No Comments ›› ACN (ji)

THE five-man panel of the National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday cleared Court of Appeal President Isa Ayo Salami of engaging in nocturnal telephone calls with some counsel to influence the court’s decisions in the Ekiti and Osun governorship disputes.

It also declined to entertain petitions to review the Court of Appeal verdicts, which gave Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) victory in the 2007 governorship elections.

On the controversial Sokoto Governorship Appeal Petitions, the panel held that there was no leakage of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

It, however, absolved Chief Justice of Nigeria Aloysius Katsina-Alu of any attempt to influence the judgment of the appellate court through Justice Salami.

The panel said under the 1999 Constitution, neither the NJC nor the CJN has any power to interfere in any judicial proceedings as Justice Katsina-Alu did in the Sokoto Governorship Election Petitions before the Court of Appeal.

The positions of the panel were contained in a 151-page report presented to the NJC yesterday in Abuja.

Members of the five-man panel are: Justice Umaru Abdullahi(Chairman); Justice Emmanuel Ayoola; Justice D.O. Edozie; Justice M.E. Akpiroroh; and Mrs. Rakiya Sarki Ibrahim.

The fact-finding panel was set up at an emergency meeting of the NJC on March 2, 2011 to look into the petitions against Justice Katsina-Alu and Justice salami.

Although the panel was given two months to complete its assignment, it added another month, following what it described as “numerous witnesses and requests by parties for adjournments”.

The panel is expected to determine seven issues. They are:

•treatment of Sokoto Governorship Appeal Petition;

•allegation of Salami that the CJN attempted to influence the judgment;

•Senator Umaru Dahiru’s evidence against the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) on the purported leakage of the judgment of Sokoto Governorship Appeal Panel;

•the propriety of the Sokoto Governorship Appeal Panel holding conference in Abuja and also seeking the view of PCA;

•the attitude and conduct of the justices who sat on Sokoto Appeal.

•petitions against the PCA by ex-Governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun) and Segun Oni (Ekiti) and Sunday Ojo-Williams over alleged phone calls by some counsel with Justice Salami; and

•the veracity of the MTN call logs tendered before the NJC committee by Oyinlola, Oni and Williams.

The MTN call logs attracted much attention because of the prolonged election legal battles in Ekiti and Osun.

But, in its report, the Panel absolved Justice Salami of engaging in any shady calls.

The report said: “Upon the totality of the evidence and the material placed before the panel, it finds: (i) that the call logs relied on by the petitioners lack authenticity and therefore have no evidential value;

(ii) that there is no sufficient evidence to establish the alleged unethical communication and to make finding of fact that there was such communication;

(iii) that there is nothing to show that the statement credited to Hon. Justice Salami, that he makes use of judges trusted is indicative of an adverse connotation.

(iv)the Panel took exception to the hard and insulting language used by the Justices against the principal petitioners, namely Chief Segun Oni and Prince Oyinlola in their replies. Judges are not known to allow emotions to take charge of their action even at the face of provocation.

“Furthermore, in the Osun PDP matter, there is no reasonable ground to draw an inference that any unethical communication or any communication occurred between Tunji Ijaya and the Justices on the panel or even that the PCA exerted any influence on the justices on the panel.

“Ijaya was described in Chief Segun Oni’s petition dated 14 February 2011 as Justice Salami’s ‘known agent and go-between ACN leaders and the lawyers of the ACN in the unholy business of miscarriage of justice. However, there is no evidence of facts in support of that bare assertion, boldly made, but unsupported by any fact.”

The panel said there was no way it could review the judgments of the Court of Appeal on Ekiti and Osun Governorship Election Petitions.

It specifically listed a petition by former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Oni, Mr. Segun Ilori and co on Ido-Osi Local Government as one of those that could not be treated.

It said such petitions were not treated because they were outside its mandate.

It added: “This panel went through the lists of the petitions and discovered that some of them were clearly outside the mandate of the panel. There are also others that were merely lifted from the petitions of others and had nothing original to offer.

“The petitions the Panel considered outside the mandate were those that attempted to involve the Panel in a futile exercise of reviewing the proceedings and judgments, particularly of the Court of Appeal.”

On the controversial Sokoto Governorship Appeal Petitions, the panel held that there was no leakage of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

It also claimed that Justice Katsina-Alu did not attempt to influence the judgment of the appellate court through Justice Salami.

The report added: “From all the circumstances, there is available evidence that the CJN did not give instructions to the PCA to direct the Panel to dismiss the appeal.

“The Panel is of the view that the issue of leakage of the judgment for now remains like an early morning fog that never endured after the rising of the sun.

“The Panel finds no evidence that the CJN wittingly or unwittingly brought the judiciary into disrepute.

“The Panel finds the allegation that the CJN had taken over the running of the Court of appeal in an unprecedented manner as unfounded.”

“The Panel believes that somewhere along the line, there is clear breakdown of communication between the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the President of the Court of Appeal.”

The panel said the NJC or the CJN has no power to interfere in any judicial proceedings as Katsina-Alu did on the Sokoto governorship dispute.

The report said: “Be that as it may, the Panel had no difficulty in holding the view that under the Constitution and the laws of the land, no apparent power has been bestowed on the NJC of which the CJN is the chairman to interfere in any proceedings of the legally constituted Court.

“The Panel however finds no semblance of ill-motive, selfishness of an individual or sectional interest being used to subvert the Constitution in the steps taken by the CJN, Chairman of NJC.

“In view of the surrounding circumstances, the Panel finds that the CJN was motivated by an apparent urge to protect the administration of justice and avoid breach of peace. The Panel finds that the CJN acted in good faith to have taken the steps he took.”


The Nation

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