The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind his decision to accede to the NJC recommendation on Justice Ayo Salami by appointing an Acting President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) to replace him, saying a reversal of the decision is the only way to end the controversy generated by the unconstitutional act.
In a statement issued on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also criticized the government’s attempt to rationalize President Jonathan’s action, describing it as futile and a pointer to the quality of advice being given to the President by his advisers.
It said the party agrees with Emeritus Professor D.A. Ijalaiye SAN of the Obafemi Awolowo University that a competent, patriotic and selfless Attorney-General of the Federation would have advised the President as follows:
(1) That all things considered, President Jonathan should not accept the recommendation of the NJC that Hon Justice Isa Salami should be retired from office and also direct that the suspension imposed on him by the NJC be ignored because both actions were palpably illegal and therefore null and void.
(2) That Hon Justice Katsina-Alu should proceed on the natural retirement from August 28, 2011
(3) That Hon. Justice Isa Salami be left as the President Court of Appeal till he reaches retirement age.
As Prof. Ijalaye puts it, the above is the correct position of the law and what any courageous, competent and unbiased Attorney-General would have recommended to the President in the circumstances.
ACN said it must be made clear to all that the NJC is an advisory body and not the highest judicial authority in the land as is being erroneously portrayed, adding: ‘’That distinction belongs to the Supreme Court.’’
It said: ‘’As a matter of fact there is no compulsion on the part of the President to act on all or any recommendation of the NJC, especially where, in Salami’s case, the NJC has not only shown its bias but has acted illegally by pronouncing on a matter which it knew was already subjudice.’’
The party also explained that the President was clearly ill-advised when he committed the same illegality by acting on an illegal recommendation of the NJC and filling a non-existent vacancy.
‘’For the avoidance of doubt, for Section 238 of the Constitution - which the President said he relied upon to act - to become operative, Section 292 of the constitution must have been complied with.
‘’A close reading of Section 292 of the constitution will show clearly that the President was ill-advised by his Attorney-General to be made to believe that there exists a vacuum which must be filled. This is because Justice Salami had to be validly removed in accordance with section 292 before the President can invoke section 238.
‘’Since there was no vacancy, there could have been no lacuna and the President was therefore mis-advised by those who might have been more focused on personal, rather than nation interest, and his appointment of an acting President of the Court of Appeal has only given a presidential stamp to a series of illegality,’’ ACN said.
The party urged the President to disregard the circus show being put forward by pseudo public affairs analysts, lawyers masquerading as constitutional experts to push their personal agenda, as well as political jobbers who have taken over the airwaves and newspapers, most likely at huge costs to hapless taxpayers, trying to defend the indefensible
‘’Our simple answer to the advertorial being used to justify the millions of naira that have been funneled into the pockets of those behind the circus show is that the cases of Justices Chudi Nwokorie, Idris Habib or Ibrahim Anka which they cited are different from that of Justice Isa Salami. Let them answer this simple question: ‘Did the NJC make the recommendations to dismiss any of these other judges while their cases were in court?’
‘’Nigerians may be reeling under the yoke of poverty and hardship, but their reasoning faculty is intact. The truth is that no good advert can sell a bad product. The millions being wasted on adverts and cash-and-carry ‘analysis’ by mercenary constitutional experts and pseudo public affairs analysts, both here and abroad, will not end the controversy of Justice Salami’s illegal removal until the right thing is done,’’ it said.