Supreme Court Justices, Sylva Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro have of their own volition, withdrawn from further participating in the proceedings of Nigeria’s apex court.
Recall that the two Justices were among some judiciary officers arrested by the Department of State Services some weeks back on corruption allegations. According to Punch, he two senior judiciary officers would no longer sit until when they were able to clear their names of the allegations.
This was reportedly revealed by the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed at a meeting, which he held with a delegation of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in his chambers on Thursday, October 27.
He also disclosed at the meeting, that the embattled Judges had not been sitting since they were released after their arrest alongside some other serving and compulsorily retired judges between October 7 and 8.
According to an unnamed source, who was in attendance at the meeting, the CJN excluded from consideration, calls for the suspension of the two justices of the apex court or any of the other arrested judges, telling the NBA delegation that the two Senior judiciary officers had made a decision on their own, to withdraw from further sittings of the apex court.
The source said:
“The CJN made it clear that the NJC could never have suspended the arrested judges in the absence of any evidence presented by their accusers.
“The CJN said the DSS, which levelled allegations against the judges, had not presented any evidence against them to the NJC on which any possibility of suspending them could be based.
“But he said the two affected Justices of the Supreme Court had, on their own, recused (withdrawn) themselves from sitting until when they are able to clear their names.
“The CJN made it clear that the two Justices of the Supreme Court were not on suspension.”
It was said that the President of NBA led the delegation of lawyers made up of some national officers of the association, to the meeting with the CJN which was convened in order to harmonise the positions of both parties which seems to be in contrast concerning the fate of the judges who were arrested by the DSS.
Whereas the NBA president was reported to have called for the suspension of the judges until they were able to prove their innocence, the NJC and the CJN, who is also the Chairman of the NJC, had independently stated that it was not within their jurisdiction.
Speaking further the source described the meeting as fruitful saying:
“They were able to explain the positions they each took to each other more clearly.
“The CJN explained why the NJC could not suspend the affected judges in the absence of any evidence.
“The NBA president, on his part, also explained that he actually did not call for the suspension of the judges but that he only called on the affected judges to recuse themselves until they were able to clear their names.
“The NBA president said the association’s position was to save the institution because having judges with corruption allegations hanging over their heads or even arraigned for criminal offences still sitting, would cause a lot of collateral damage to the institution of the judiciary.
“But the NBA stuck to its condemnation of the procedure adopted by the DSS without recourse to the NJC.”