A former President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Isa Ayo Salami has faulted the terms of reference of the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO), which is due for inauguration today.
He also said the committee’s exercise may amount to time wasting and a huge theatrical show.
Justice Salami said he rejected his appointment as the chairman of COTRIMCO because of the inclusion of certain lawyers in the committee based on their antecedents, divided interest and personal relationship.
Justice Salami bared his mind in a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and National Judicial Council, Justice Walter Onnoghen (GCON).
In the letter, he said although the CJN agreed to remove the affected legal practitioners from the committee, he was not ready to accept it as it would “amount to buying a pig in a poke”.
The letter said: “Please refer to Your Lordship’s letter Ref. No. NJC/6/4/76/1/1 of 9th October, 2017 and our (Onnoghen/Salami) discussion of Thursday, 12th October, 2017 in Your Lordship’s chambers on the above mentioned committee.
“At the meeting, I raised serious objection to the inclusion of certain legal practitioners in the committee based on their antecedents, divided interest and personal relationship with one of them whom I strongly believe I cannot work with.
“Your Lordship apparently agreed with me that their inclusion was inauspicious based on petitions or protests you had received against their membership of the committee but Your Lordship was of the view that their removal at this stage would be premature and should be deferred till after the inauguration of the committee.
“I do not agree with Your Lordship’s approach to the problem and I am respectfully not prepared to accept it as it would amount to buying a pig in a poke. It is easier to remove them before inauguration than after inauguration.”
Justice Salami also faulted the committee’s terms of reference and the relevance of some state Chief Judges on the panel.
The letter added: “On my return to Ilorin on that 12th October, 2017, I met the letter under reference, which was forwarded to me by courier, waiting for me.
“The letter contained the terms of reference of the committee which is mainly to be watching the proceedings of courts designated by the chief judges across the country for trial of corruption cases.
“With the greatest respect, I do not know what we stand to gain by merely watching the proceedings of these courts. A judge who is quiet or friendly to counsel may not necessarily be honest neither is the one who is boisterous dishonest.
“Even then the most reckless amongst them would not be foolhardy to misconduct himself in the presence of the committee. He would clearly conduct himself respectfully for so long as it takes.
“I wish to remind My Lord that the devil itself does not know the darkest part of a man’s mind. Our sitting in court watching the proceedings would not disclose the intention of the presiding judge.
“The whole exercise would tantamount to time wasting and a huge theatrical show as we would not be there when he is writing his judgment.”
The ex-President of the Court of Appeal asked the CJN to be more forthcoming on what the NJC would gain by setting up the committee.
He said: “I, therefore, most respectfully stand to be persuaded on what the National Judicial Council stands to gain by setting up this committee.
“If, however, it feels very strongly about it, council could make one of its members chairman of the body. There are five retired Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, including a former President of the Court of Appeal, in the National Judicial Council.
“After all the committee is that of the National Judicial Council as suggested above and I am not a member of the council. My own duty would just have been to submit a report to the council for its consideration and conclusion, a role that would be better performed by a member of the council.
“My Lord, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, another dilemma the committee might face is the inclusion of the five chief judges of some states in it. What happens to their primary function – the administration of their various courts? Would they abdicate their responsibility to their courts or be taking time off to see to the running in order to ensure their stability? What would the committee do during their absence; wait for them or proceed without them?
“Either view is not salutary to the function of the committee. If we wait for them, the work of the committee would be delayed and if we proceed without them, they would not be seized of all the facts to enable them participate fully in the deliberations of the committee and to defend its report in council.”
Justice Salami thanked the CJN for honouring him with the appointment because it will facilitate the healing process in the nation’s Judicial system.
A statement by the Director of Information, National Judicial Council (NJC), Mr. Soji Oye, said the CJN “picked a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Mr. Suleiman Galadima, CFR, as the new chairman of the committee.
The statement said: “Justice Galadima is to replace Hon. Justice Mr. Ayo Salami (retired) who excused himself from the committee as the chairman, after initially accepting to serve.
The committee will be inaugurated tomorrow, Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 by Hon. Justice Mr. Onnoghen, at the Council’s Conference Hall by 2pm.
Hon. Justice Mr. Galadima, CFR, was born October 1946 in Nasarawa State. He attended Government College, Keffi where he obtained the West Africa School Certificate in 1965 before he proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law in 1977 and was called to the Bar after he graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 1978.
He later received a master’s degree in Law from the University of Jos in 1985.
“He joined the Anambra State Judiciary as Magistrate on July 1988 and in 1990, he was appointed as the Attorney-General and the Commissioner for Justice, Plateau State.
“On May 1991, he became the High Court Judge of Plateau State. At the creation of Nasarawa State in 1996, he was appointed as its pioneer Chief Judge of the State.
“On December 9, 1998, he was appointed to the Court of Appeal and on August 2010, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“He retired on October 10, 2016, at the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
“Hon. Justice Mr. Galadima is famous for his leading judgement in Shina Oketaolegun Vs. State, SC. 334A/2012, wherein he held that the Court of Appeal correctly reviewed the evidence led by both the prosecution and the defence in which he agreed that the evidence of one credible witness can justify conviction.”
Other members of the committee are the Chief Judge, Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah; the Chief Judge of Imo State, Justice P.O. Nnadi; Chief Judge Delta State, Justice Marsahal Umukoro, Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice M. L. Abimbola. Others are the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A.B Mahmoud (SAN); former NBA Presidents, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Mr. J.B Daudu (SAN); and Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN); Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN); Mrs. R.I Inga, Representative of Non-Governmental Organisations, Representative from the Ministry of Justice, Representative from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, as well as the Secretary of the NJC, Mr. Gambo Saleh.