A Kogi State high court sitting in Koton-Karfe, on Tuesday ruled that the executive and the state legislature, cannot remove the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah without recourse to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The presiding judge, Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, while delivering his judgement on the suit brought by the chief judge, also held that the chief registrar of the court held a statutory position and not subject to the control and supervision of either the other two arms of government.
Ajanah and the chief registrar, Alhaji Yahaya Adamu, had brought the suit brought against the state house of assembly, the governor and three others.
Omolaye-Ajileye in the judgment granted all the reliefs and declarations sought by the claimants in the suit saying, “on the whole, I find merit in this action and it succeeds. All the declarations sought are allowed.
“By item 21 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (As Amended), the National Judicial Council (NJC) is the body empowered to exercise disciplinary control over all Judicial Officers of Nigeria.
“It is also said that the NJC, established under Section 153(i) of the constitution (as amended), that has the power to recommend to the Governor, the removal of a judicial officer.
“Where a Chief Judge of a state is to be removed, for whatever reason, it is the NJC, not the state House of Assembly, that is empowered to make recommendations to the governor of a state under item 21(d) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution.
“To allow only the House of Assembly and the governor of a state to remove a Chief Judge of a state or any judicial officer for that matter, without the input of the NJC, will be monstrous and outrageous as it is capable of destroying the very substratum of justice and introducing a system of servitude, utterly inconsistent with the constitutional independence of judges,” he said.
According to the judge, Omolaye-Ajileye said that the facts of the matter according to the affidavit supporting the originating summons deposed to by Shaibu Yakubu, a legal practitioner, revealed that the crisis was as a result of the misunderstanding between the heads of the Executive and the Judiciary.
According to him, Mrs Folashade Ayoade-Arike, the state Secretary to the State Government (SSG) who had a pending case before the Chief Judge had addressed a letter to him on the orders of the state governor to release the payroll of Judiciary staff for pay parade of civil servants in the state.
The Chief Judge had instructed the Chief Registrar to reply to the letter as it was unethical for him (Ajanah) to communicate directly with her while the case was pending.