The news broke last week that a committee of the National Judicial Council (NJC), headed by Hon. Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, had recommended the reinstatement of Justice Isa Ayo Salami, as President, the Court of Appeal (PCA). The full NJC body accepted the recommendation in the best interest of the nation’s judiciary and to offer closure for one of the most embarrassing episodes in the recent history of the Third Tier of the nation’s democratic system. When Justice Salami was suspended late last year, the controversial events leading to the decision tarnished the image of the Nigerian judiciary, with many people believing that it had been sucked into the murky waters of politics, which was affecting very negatively, its independence.
It was noteworthy that the presidency acted with speed when the decision to suspend the PCA was communicated. Almost a week after the decision for reinstatement was made, however, there has been no movement in that direction. That has gotten people worried, until reports began to emerge that the decision by the NJC has not been communicated to the presidency. This position was re-stated by the nation’s Attorney General, Muhammed Bello Adoke, this week, that he was not yet in possession of the NJC resolution, responding to pressures about the re-instatement demands, by saying that “we will not respond to the mob as a responsible Minister of Justice”. Similarly, even the acting PCA, Adamu Dalhatu, has also not received any communication from the NJC asking him to step down.
The political environment around the controversial suspension of Justice Isa Ayo Salami has remained very complicated. Certain political actors within the ruling PDP, who felt aggrieved by the judicial decisions of the Court of Appeal under Justice Salami, have remained determined to frustrate every effort to reinstate the judge. There are cases still in court, including the one instituted by the suspended PCA himself, in the wake of the effort to initially ‘promote’ him into the Supreme Court. These political forces are not folding their arms and in the wake of the NJC decision last week, there have been new efforts to go back to court with new cases they obviously intend to use to stall any move to return Justice Salami to his position. The calculation is that these multi-pronged litigations will then stretch to the end of Justice Salami’s tenure by October 2013.
But it is in the interest of the government as well as the credibility of the nation’s judiciary and the health of our democracy, that the decision to reinstate Justice Salami be implemented immediately. This is because a majority of public opinion in Nigeria did not accept the various allegations used to suspend him in the first place. The argument was that Justice Salami had to be removed from office so as not to endanger the PDP’s position during the Presidential Election Appeal, that he had presided over till his suspension. If that was the issue, the PDP candidate’s election was eventually ratified by the Court of Appeal. That original fear is no longer tenable.
By most accounts, the Hon Justice Isa Ayo Salami, is one of the most courageous and honest judges in the Nigerian judiciary today. There is therefore the need to return him to his place as PCA to help re-assure Nigerians that the judiciary will remain a bastion of justice and the last hope of the common man as well as the institution to assist in the consolidation of the democratic process in the country. In truth, the controversial suspension of Justice salami was one of the lowest points in the recent history of the Nigerian judiciary. His reinstatement removes what appears a patent case of injustice, in the first place. That is why BLUEPRINT joins its voice to millions of others that the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Hon. Justice Isa Ayo Salami should be re-instated immediately.