It was with excitement that Nigerians last week received the news that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had wielded the big stick on two senior judges, Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and Justice T. D. Naron of the High Court of Justice, Plateau State respectively for conducts that negated the ethics of their profession. Almost immediately, President Goodluck Jonathan approved the sack of Justice Archibong.
Before the axe fell on the two judges, the judiciary had become an object of ridicule especially on social networking sites. It is widely known that while a few judges are working commendably, others are sinking deeper into the cesspool of corruption.
The predicament of the legal profession was worsened by somewhat ridiculous judgments delivered by judges who shamelessly give themselves away as compromised, yet walk free not minding the embarrassment they must have caused their colleagues and the noble profession.
In the case of Justice Naron, the NJC found him guilty of shoddily handling the governorship tussle between former Osun state governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and the incumbent Governor Rauf Aregbesola. NJC confirmed Naron’s constant contact with Oyinlola’s counsel, Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), through telephone, MMS and SMS messages, while the electoral case he handled was ongoing. If not for Governor Aregbesola’s resilience, his mandate would have been stolen forever.
On the other hand, Archibong hit the wrong chord when he dismissed the alleged atrocious charges against the former managing director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, in his ruling even without taking Akingbola’s plea. He also refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to lawyers.
Apart from the allegation by the NJC that there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court, he was discovered to have made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
As we commend the NJC for this critical decision, we want to urge it not to relent in the probe it is currently carrying out concerning the allegations against some other judges. These judges include Abubakar Talba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, who recently gave a convicted pension thief, Mr. John Yusuf, an option of N750, 000 fine even when the latter pleaded guilty to conniving with others to defraud the Police Pension Office of N27.2bn.
It is our belief that such barefaced ruling that brings the judiciary into disrepute must stop. The bad eggs in the system should be shown the way out so as to restore the waning confidence in the judiciary.
The NJC should further realise that if it must effectively clean this mess caused by some of the judges without conscience, it must re-visit previous committee reports on the best way to move the legal system forward in the country and implement some of its recommendations which include imposing stiffer penalties on such judges.