Home OPINION COMMENTARY Will NJC Act On Osun Judicial Crisis? By Daniel Akamo

Will NJC Act On Osun Judicial Crisis? By Daniel Akamo

The nation was recently agog with controversies over the status of the Chief Judge of Osun state, Justice Adepele Ojo. The status quo is that the state Governor has handed off the matter by forwarding the case to the National Judicial Council(NJC). But the body is also said to be in possession of two direct petitions against the Chief Judge.
The matter got complicated with the labour action by the judicial workers union against the Chief judge. While political colouration earlier dominated the crisis, the labour angle opened up a new line of arguments. Suddenly, internal management questions within the judiciary popped up with a series of allegations against the Chief Judge which interestingly are non-political.
The House which originally acted on the matter adopted a new approach by releasing its judiciary committee findings. The findings aroused further question as to what is happening within the state judiciary. Analysts started doubting the original narration of witch hunt. The House proceeded to forward the resolution to the Governor under the premise that it was acting to expose corruption.
A peep into the House resolution is truly an eye opener. The revelations painted a state judiciary riddled with corruption:
“Pursuant to series of petitions received against the Honourable Chief Judge of Osun State from members of His Lordship’s staff, Osun State Chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and some Civil Society Organisations, the House, being fully conscious of the provision of the law that the House and the Executive Governor of the State cannot initiate any form of disciplinary action against the Honourable Chief Judge, without the input of the National Judicial Council, resolved to embark on a fact-finding proceeding, and upon conclusion of the fact-finding proceeding and adoption of the report submitted by the Fact-finding Committee, the House hereby resolved as follows:
“(i) That in view of the fact that neither the House nor the Executive Governor can exercise any form of disciplinary action against the Honourable Chief Judge, without the input of National Judicial Council (NJC), this House should advise and hereby advise that all the Petitioners should channel their petitions to the NJC which is the supreme authority over all judicial officers in terms of discipline and control.
“(ii) That the Executive Governor of Our State being the Chief Executive and the father of all should with immediate effect ensure that the perpetual economic torture being experienced by the said 5 staff of High Court be brought to an end now. Thus, as a measure to rehabilitate them economically, the Governor is to ensure that each and every one of them begins to receive his or her salary as from this November, 2023 even if it requires that the State Government will immediately transfer their services from High Court to Customary Court of Appeal or any other Agency of the Government in order to bring this economic torture to an immediate end.
“(iii) In addition to (resolution 2 above) and in view of the fact that the salaries of three out of the 5 staff have been diverted for 57 months and the remaining 2 staff for 46 months at the instance of the Hon. Chief Judge, the House urges the Governor with immediate effect to assist these 5 staff by directing the payment of all or part of their salaries for the concerned months, pending the conclusion of the investigation of the NJC.
“(iv) that this House which uncovered all these facts should equally cause the Honourable Speaker to write a Petition to NJC on all the misconducts of the Honourable Chief Judge.
“(v) that in view of the facts that some Associations and purported Civil Organisations are deliberately playing politics with this grave matter; this Honourable House has specifically resolved that any Organisation that is interested in having its findings, reports and the said petitions is free to apply for certified true copies of the reports including all the documents obtained in the course of the Committee’s sittings.
“(vi). that the Osun State House of Assembly as an organ of Government saddled with legislative and oversight responsibilities as contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) shall continue to perform its functions especially as it relates to exposing corruption in any institution of government, by any person or authority without fear or favour;
“(vii). that the State Government should with immediate effect stop the consultant in charge of e-affidavit at the State High Court, and take further steps to see that all revenues being generated in respect of e-affidavit go directly to the account of the State Government.
“(viii). that in view of the fact that an effective Library is vital to effective administration of justice and in view of the fact that Honourable Chief Judge has abandoned purchase of law reports/books (except newspapers) into the Library since 2015 notwithstanding that the State Government is making available the sum of #1m for the purchase of books in the High Court monthly running cost, the State Government is hereby advised to immediately take steps to stock the Library and upgrade its facilities pending the investigation, by the National Judicial Council, of the allegation of diversion of Library funds by the Honourable Chief Judge.
“(ix). that in view of the finding of fact that the Honourable Chief Judge is not expending the four million naira monthly security cost being provided by the State Government on the security of the High court, the House advised that the State Government should suspend forthwith the payment of the said sum of #4m as monthly security cost to the High Court pending the conclusion of investigation by the National Judicial Council. However, the State Government shall do everything within its powers to provide adequate security for the High Court in the State.
“(x) that the sum of #3.6m monthly which the High Court of Justice under the watch of the Chief Judge is collecting for uniforms and clothing is obviously not being expended on any uniforms and clothing, hence, the State Government is hereby advised to suspend it forthwith pending the conclusion of investigation by the National Judicial Council”, the report concluded.
The depth of the Osun judicial crisis places a heavy burden on the NJC. Will the body look into the core issues contained in several petitions before it or wave the issue aside as political? The answer is best addressed from the integrity question in the administration of justice. The body is surely at liberty to separate the core issues from fringe political drama that surrounded the crisis. The NJC cannot ignore the critical question of corrupt conduct raised in the petitions before it.
To sustain the integrity of the judiciary, the NJC will be interested in digging into the truth or otherwise of the allegations. A dispassionate investigation which the NIC is known for will produce a credible verdict on the petitions. The world is watching.
● Daniel Akamo wrote from Games Village l, Abuja

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