The National Judicial Council yesterday disagreed with the Nigerian Bar Association’s call for the suspension of judicial officers who are being investigated over alleged corruption allegations by the Department of State Service (DSS).
While speaking at the valedictory court session in honour of retiring Justice Sotonye Deton-West at the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday, the NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), had called on the embattled judges to step down from the country’s judiciary pending when their names are cleared of all the issues levelled against them.
But in a swift reaction to the NBA’s recent position on the matter, the NJC in statement by its acting Director of Information, Soji Oye, described the call for the stepping aside of the judges as “unacceptable.”
The disciplinary body of all judicial officers in the country noted that it was not unaware of the views expressed by members of the public and lawyers on the issue, but added that the NJC could only recommend the appointment and dismissal of any erring judicial official to either the President or the governor of a state as prescribed by the law establishing it.
The NJC admitted that its mandate was limited by the provisions in the 1999 Constitution that established it.
“NJC is constrained to inform the general public that its constitutional mandate is to process and recommend to the executive at the federal and state levels, the appointment, and or the removal of judicial officers from office, including exercise of its disciplinary control of suspending and or warning judicial officers; after complying with due process and the rule of law.
“Since the creation of NJC vide the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, it has exercised its powers and performed its functions within its constitutional limitations.
“Thus, the current position of the Nigerian Bar Association vis-à-vis its recommendation that the affected judicial officers involved in the on-going investigation of judicial officers by the DSS, be requested to proceed on compulsory leave until the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings against them, is unacceptable to the NJC; as it breaches the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“It is to be reiterated also that by the provisions of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, NJC shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person while exercising its disciplinary power of control over Judicial Officers in the Federation.