The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday barred judges under investigation from carrying on with their judicial functions.
The decision was the outcome of a two-day meeting by the NJC following call by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) for the council to suspend the judges and save the judiciary from further embarrassment.
A statement by the Council’s Acting Director of Information, Soji Oye, said the judicial officials being investigated for alleged ‘high-profile offences’ would no longer handle judicial matters until declared innocent.
It read in part:
“The council also decided that judicial officers shall not be standing trial for alleged corruption-related offences and be performing judicial functions at the same time.”
This came as three prominent administrative officials of Nigeria’s apex court were said to have been charged to an Abuja court.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who filed the charges, was not available for comments when The Guardian called his phone. An SMS to his telephone line and that of his spokesman, Mr. Salihu Othman, did not also elicit a response as at press time.
However, a senior official of the Supreme Court said last night that there was no information that the three officials were charged to court. He claimed to have seen one of them during the day who did not look like he had a case around his neck.
“I saw him earlier today and he did not look worried about any case, except of course, if he did not know about it at that time,” he said.
The three senior officials are accused of tampering with over N2 billion meant for the apex court.
No justice of the Supreme Court was mentioned in the case in court. A source hinted that the investigations of the Supreme Court justices might have nothing to do with the senior administrative officials.
NJC, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud at the 79th meeting, which held between Wednesday and Thursday, said it had commenced the implementation of specific aspects of the National Judicial Policy, which was launched early last week.
Consequently, the body, during the meeting, set up a Transparency and Anti- Corruption Policy Implementation Committee to be headed by a retired Justice of Supreme Court, Justice E.O Ayoola.
Other members of the committee include the Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah and President, NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud.
Some Justices of the Supreme Court and High Court judges were recently arrested by the officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) for alleged corruption and professional misconduct.
Following the allegation, NBA had insisted that the affected judicial officials step aside while the allegations were investigated.
NJC had adopted a different position, stressing that the judges did not have to step aside since it was yet to receive any petition of wrongdoing against them from the DSS.