The National Judicial Council has set up investigative committees to look into the allegations against some judges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the council’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, said on Thursday.
Oye said in a statement that a total of 25 judges in addition to an unspecified number of judges accused by the EFCC, are to face seven investigative panels for various allegations of misconduct.
The names of the judges to be probed were not given.
Meanwhile, Oye also said the NJC had recommended the compulsory retirement of a judge of the High Court of Adamawa State, Justice Michael Goji, to Governor Jibrilla Bindow.
He also disclosed that the council had recommended 22 appointments, 21 of which are of judges, and the other one to fill in the long-standing vacancy on the three-man bench of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The names of the nominees were not given.
According to Oye, the NJC, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, took the decisions, among others, at its 86th meeting held on May 8 and 9, 2018.
Oye said the NJC also, at the meeting, cleared a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Paul Galinje, as well as 10 other judges of separate allegations of acts of misconduct levelled against them.
The judges cleared included the Chief Judges of three states – Justice Aminu Ringim (Jigawa), Justice Peter Umeadi (Enugu), and Taminu Zailani, Chief Judge (Kaduna).
The EFCC had reportedly sent petitions against some judges it was already prosecuting following a December 12, 2017 judgment of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal prohibiting law enforcement agencies from investigating or prosecuting serving judges until they were disciplined by the council.
In the aftermath of the December 12, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal dismissing the charges against Justice Hyeldzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court in Abuja, the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 23, 2018, dismissed corruption charges against a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
The NJC’s Director of Information, Oye, said in a statement on Thursday that the EFCC’s petitions and others sent against some 25 judges were to be looked into by seven investigative panels of the council.
“Petitions written against the 25 judicial officers and others by the EFCC were also considered by the council after which it resolved to empanel seven committees to look into the allegations,” the statement read in part.
Oye also said Justice Goji of the Adamawa State High Court was recommended for compulsory retirement “for refusing to proceed on transfer to the Mubi Judicial Division of the State High Court since July, 2017.”
In addition to the sanction of compulsory retirement imposed on him, the NJC also recommended that he be made to refund the salaries he had received since July 2017.
He was placed on suspension pending the approval of the NJC’s recommendation by the Adamawa State governor.
The statement read in part, “Hon. Mr. Justice Michael Goji was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor Bindo Umaru Jibrilla of Adamawa State sequel to the advice of the State Judicial Service Commission to council after its findings on the allegations of misconduct levelled against him.
“The Adamawa State Judicial State Commission had conducted an investigation into the conduct of Hon. Mr. Justice Goji, following the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, after receiving the complaint of his misconduct from the Adamawa State Chief Judge.
“Aside from the recommendation for compulsory retirement, council also directed that he should refund all salaries received by him from July, 2017 till date, failing which the Adamawa State Government is to deduct the amount from any entitlement due to him and remit same to the National Judicial Council which pays salaries of all judicial officers in the Federation.
“In the interim, the council in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, has suspended Hon. Mr. Justice Goji from office pending his removal from office.”
According to Oye, Justice Galinje of the Supreme Court was cleared of an allegation of interference in a chieftaincy matter in his home state, Taraba.
The petition against him was said to have been dismissed following its withdrawal by the petitioners.
The same fate also befell the petition written against the Chief Judge of Jigawa State, Justice Rigim, who was accused of ordering the arrest, assault, and detention of employees of the Kano Electricity Distribution Company when they disconnected the electricity at the State High Court and the judge’s house for non-payment of bills.
The statement read in part, “Council considered the reports of various Investigation Committees and dismissed petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Paul Adamu Galinje of the Supreme Court, Hon. Mr. Justice Aminu Sabo Ringim, Chief Judge, Jigawa State, and Hon. Mr. Justice Peter Umeadi, Chief Judge, Enugu State.
“The petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Paul Adamu Galinje of the Supreme Court was dismissed sequel to its withdrawal by Hon. Yaro Abarshi and Hon. John Yobi Yarafa and others, who alleged that he interfered in a chieftaincy matter in Taraba State.
“The petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Aminu Sabo Ringim was also dismissed because the petitioner, Dr. Jamil Gwamna, who wrote to Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing who in turn forwarded same to the National Judicial Council, withdrew the petition.
“The allegation was that the Hon. Judge ordered the arrest, assault, and detention of some members of staff of Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) when they disconnected the electricity at the State High Court and the judge’s house for non-payment of bills.
“The committee that investigated the matter found that the petitioner could not show or prove that Hon. Justice Ringim instructed or directed the arrest of KEDCO’s (members of) staff.
“Council did not find any reason to further investigate Hon. Justices Paul Galinje and Aminu Ringim after the withdrawals.”
The petitions against the Chief Judge of Kaduna State, Justice Zailani, and seven others “were dismissed for a lack of establishment of misconduct, being subjudice or that such petitions were matters for appeal”.