Two judges, Rita N. Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court and James T. Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria have been recommended for dismissal by the National Judicial Council.
They were found guilty of misconduct.
THE recommendation, the first of its type has been sent to President Muhammadu Buhari. Past recommendations had always been for compulsory retirement.
Rising from its 87th meeting held on Wednesday, the NJC also directed Justice Joshua E. Ikede of the Delta State High Court to refund what he earned as salary and other entitlements since October 2016.
The NJC said it found that Justice Ikede altered his age. It rejected the retirement letter the judge sent to it on October 1.
NJC’s Director of Information Soji Oye said in a statement that the investigation of Justices Ofili-Ajumogobia and Agbadu-Fishim was based on petitions written against them by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
The NJC said the petitioner alleged that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is a Director/Chief Executive Officer and sole signatory to Nigel and Colive Company contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
It said there was also allegation that several personalities, individuals, government officials and business partners lodged funds into various accounts belonging to the judge.
The NJC said it was also alleged that there was an ex-parte communication between the judge and Mr. Godwin Oblah, SAN, during the pendency of his matter before the judge.
The council said it could not consider other allegations in the petition because they are already before a court where the judge is standing trial. It left those matters for the trial to take its legal course.
Oye said Justice Agbadu-Fishim “was also recommended for removal by dismissal from office sequel to the findings of the council on the allegations contained in another petition by the Acting Chairman of EFCC alleging that the judge received various sums of money from litigants and lawyers that had cases before him, and some influential Nigerians, under the false pretence that he was bereaved or that there was delay in the payment of his salary.
“This is contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In the interim, the council, in exercise of its disciplinary powers under paragraph 21 (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, has suspended Justices R. N. Ofili-Ajumogobia and James T. Agbadu-Fishim with immediate effect pending their removal from office by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
On Justice Ikede, Oye said: “Council rejected the letter of voluntary retirement, purported to be with effect from October 1, 2018, submitted to it by Hon. Mr. Justice Joshua E. Ikede of the Delta State High Court.
“This followed the findings on an allegation of falsification of age contained in a petition written by Zik Gbemre, National Co-ordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition. Council found that the Hon. Judge ought to have retired since October, 2016.
“Consequently, it backdated his retirement to 2016 and recommended to the Government of Delta State to deduct from the retirement benefits of the judge, all salaries received by him from October, 2016 till date and remit it to NJC, which pays salaries of all judicial officers in the federation.
“Council also decided to issue a letter of advice to Hon. Mr. Justice K. C. Nwakpa of High Court of Abia State to guard against unwarranted utterances in matters before him.
“This was as a result of a complaint to the council by one Princewill Ukegbu.”
It added: “Council considered the reports of various investigation committees and dismissed the petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory; Hon. Mr. Justice E. O. Osinuga of the High Court of Ogun State, and Hon. Mr. Justice E. O. Ononeze-Madu of the High Court of Imo State.
“The petition by Wema Bank against Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court was dismissed because the allegation of misconduct was not established.
“The judge’s handling of the related matter did not amount to the alleged misconduct.”
On the petition on allegation of inducement, bias and alteration of ruling written by David Olawepo Efunwape against Justice E. O. Osinuga of High Court, Ogun State, the NJC said it was found to be false.
The statement said: “Council, therefore, decided to report David Olawepo Efunwape, Esq., to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for appropriate sanctions for making false allegations against a judge.
The petition written by Eugene Okechukwu Dibiagwu against Justice E. O. Ononeze Madu was dismissed by the council for lack of merit. The council warned the petitioner and asked him to apologise to the judge for the false allegation of inducement.
New petitions written against 26 judicial officers from the Federal and state high courts were considered by council, after which it resolved to empanel four committees to investigate.
The statement said: “The remaining petitions were summarily dismissed for obvious and manifest lack of merit, being subjudice, concerning administrative matters, or that such petitions were matters for appeal.”