Judicial malpractice: NJC has no power to sanction retired judges – Court

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ABUJA—The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, held that the National Judicial Council, NJC, lacks the constitutional powers to investigate or discipline retired judges accused of complicity in perversion of justice.

The court, in a judgment it delivered on a suit that was entered before it by the former Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, who was in 2013, found guilty of judicial corruption by the NJC, stressed that the disciplinary powers of the Council is limited to only serving judicial officers.

 Cross section of  Justices of the Court of Appeal Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

Justice Abdul Kafarati who gave the judgment yesterday, maintained that the erstwhile Chief Judge of the FCT, Gummi, ceased to be a judicial officer after he voluntarily resigned from office on May 13, 2013.

Gummi, whose tenure as CJ would have ended this year, resigned his position barely three weeks after the NJC commenced investigation into a petition that sought his sack over alleged judicial impropriety.

His resignation came a day after he was crowned as the new Emir of Gummi Community in Zamfara state.

Despite his voluntary decision to willingly bow out of the Bench, the NJC still went ahead and constituted a panel that probed the allegation of judicial malpractice that was levelled against him.

In a statement it issued through its Acting Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, the NJC, on July 18, 2013, said it had at the end of its 63rd meeting, deliberated on the Report and recommendation of its Committee that investigated the petition forwarded to it by Nestello Gateway Group in Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/486/10 against Hon. Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, and found him culpable.

The Council said that the CJ unduly interfered and perverted the course of justice in the case between Nestello Gateway Group and Governor Abdul’aziz Yari of Zamfara state.

NJC said that findings by its committee revealed that the ex-CJ interfered in the execution of a judgement delivered by Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, Abuja.

“Council also found the interference of Gummi in the execution of the judgment as most unethical and highly reprehensible.”

The former chief judge would have been summarily removed from office as he was guilty of gross misconduct. His action was contrary to Rule 1 (i) of the Code of Conduct for judicial officers in Nigeria.

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