Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has expressed concern over the crisis in the judiciary over Justice Ayo Salami’s suspension.
He spoke yesterday when he received members of Coalition of civil society groups against injustice on a protest march against the removal of President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
He decried a situation where within a very short time, a decision was taken to supplant President of the Court of Appeal while there was a pending court action on the issue.
Addressing the coalition at the open grounds of the Lagos House, Ikeja, Governor Fashola said he was shocked at what seemed the very quick rush by the President to give effect to the recommendations of the National Judicial Council on the matter, adding that there were more important problems facing the nation that should take the President’s attention.
“I was very concerned about what seemed the very quick rush to give effect to the recommendations. There are so many other problems facing this nation that have not received such quick attention. One has been concerned over the weekend that, is this our priority?” the governor explained.
Governor Fashola however expressed confidence that the leadership at governmental and Bar Association levels will rise to the occasion and reassure Nigerians that the Judiciary is still the last hope of the poor man, stressing that the Nigerian Bar Association which started its conference on Monday in Port Harcourt will lend itself equitably to the strength of the Nigerian judiciary and the Nigerian Bar.
While receiving a protest letter from the group led by Mr Ayo Opadokun and Dr Joe Okei -Odunmakin for delivery to President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Fashola thanked the civil society groups for finding the courage and dedicating the time to express their concern about the developments in the country, adding that he will be pretending, if he claims not to be concerned himself.
“The judiciary is perhaps the most critical of the institutions that sustains a democracy. It is a vehicle for conflict resolution and if it is in itself now the object of conflict and high wire manipulations, they would be ominous signs for our nation”.
“At various times in the history of our nation, we have had to deal with warnings. They are signs of dangers about the Nigerian nation. Let me say these signs are with us now. They will not come in form of an earthquake or that Nigeria will fail to physically exist but in the way that they have begin to appear in the breach of law and order. When institutions succeed or failed, it is men and women who have either failed or succeeded,” the governor said.
Speaking earlier, the leader of the group, Mr. Ayo Opadokun said the group embarked on the protest march to show concern that the country is going under because the only stabilising instrument which is the third arm of the government has been desecrated.
“No one should be under any illusion that the concept of suspending Justice Salami is an accidental one. It has been choreographed severally by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are our opponents. We are aware of a number of this scripts which are not only dramatic but portend evil.
“In this circumstance that we are in, it will require men and women of goodwill to not only speak out forthrightly but take constitutional and legitimate steps to right the wrongs”.
Prominent among those who joined the governor in receiving the members of the civil society groups were members of the State Executive Council including Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Raji while members of the protesting Coalition of Civil Society Groups included President of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Secretary- General Yoruba Human Rights, Alhaji Jubril Ogundimu, former Co-ordinator of Lagos State United Action for Democracy (UAD), Mr Nelson Ekunjimi, South West Co-ordinator UAD, Mr Wale Balogun and National Coordinator, Campaign Against Impunity, Mr Shina Loremikan amongst others.
Also, the manner the country is being run by President Goodluck Jonathan has become worrisome to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and, indeed, his colleagues at the House.
Ikuforiji and members of the state House of Assembly, who took time to appraise the activities of the President since he was sworn in on 29 May, described Jonathan as one who thinks everything in the country only centres on ‘goodluck’.
The speaker said he had always respected the President following the way his name had led him to the pinnacle of success.
However, once there, he has begun to use that same name to undermine the unity of the country.
He said he was disturbed that Nigerian leaders do not learn from history, while stressing that policies carried out so far by President Jonathan were not too good for the country’s democracy and rule of law.
The Speaker was provoked by the President’s latest action of endorsing the suspension of the President of the Appeal Court, Ayo Salami, by the National Judicial Council, NJC, which, according to him, was based on illegality.
He said seven out of the total number of 24 members of the NJC sat to take the decision on Salami and that three again voted against the action of the NJC.
“It means only four members decided to remove or suspend the President of the Court of Appeal. And Mr. President, a man that God in his infinite mercy just allowed goodluck to smile at, decided to bring sadness to the greater majority of serious minded Nigerians.
“The President should look for those who love him to remind him of history. He should stop allowing himself to be deceived by his name to believe that wrong doings can just be allowed to go unpunished. There is no luck about this.
“I am more afraid that the President is not thinking deep on the repercussions of some of his actions on the future of Nigeria.
“He wants upheavals in all sectors of the country. Perhaps, he is not thinking about the unity of this nation at all,” he said.
He reminded Jonathan of the militancy in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram sect in the north and warned him not to provoke the South-West against the government.
He said: “I think he only wants crisis in the entire country and the agenda is actually to get Nigeria disintegrated. So we need to be careful.
“It is time for us all to go back to prayers because we are in serious trouble.”
On his part, Hon. Razak Balogun described the PDP as a party without human sympathy, adding that the party does not have the interest of the people at heart.
Sanai Agunbiade, who sounded ironical, said it would be wrong for people to think the President had not done anything since his assumption.
“He is battling to see that Nigeria now operates a six-year single term for some elected public office holders. He has also ensured the removal of Justice Isa Salami.
“So it is not fair to say he has not done anything. He only did the wrong things,” he said.
In his reaction, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association( NBA), Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), says the country’s judiciary has collapsed.
Dauda made the remark in Port Harcourt on Monday at the opening ceremony of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NBA in Port Harcourt.
He said the collapse of the country’s judiciary followed the creation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and vesting of too much powers in the hands of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“By creating the NJC and vesting virtually all influential powers in the hands of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the constitution had unwittingly brought about the collapse of the judiciary,” he said.
Daudu said that urgent constitutional amendment was needed to “re-tool” the judiciary and all its agencies.
According to him, the re-tooling must be such that a man still serving in judicial capacity does not have a decisive say in the appointment or removal of judges at all levels.
He said the NBA had resolved to advise President Goodluck Jonathan, regarding the matter of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Salami.
Daudu lamented that about two hours after the NBA advised the NJC to revert to the status quo and make it public, Jonathan appointed Justice Dalhatu Adamu as Acting President of the Court of Appeal.
According to him, a crooked, corrupt and inefficient judiciary will promote disunity, insecurity, anarchy and strife in the polity.
He added that on the other hand, an efficient and incorruptible judiciary would guarantee a vibrant, just and egalitarian society.
Daudu recalled that he had earlier raised the alarm on the high-level corruption in the judicial system when he was elected the NBA President.
He said that while the bench was faced with allegations of falling standard, corruption, inability to manage its affairs, the bar was accused of delaying cases, collusion by some of its members in instances of corruption among others.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria has joined several Nigerians and organisations in condemning the victimization of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami by the combined forces of the PDP and the National Judicial Council, NJC.
The party says it suspects high wire political plot by the PDP to ensure that the judiciary is shackled to keep its legendary electoral heists.