Retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami
Retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, on Thursday said fellow judges as well as the National Judicial Council betrayed him in the twilight of his career, especially after his suspension by the NJC.
Salami likened his travails to that of the Biblical Joseph, who was sold into slavery by members of his family.
He said, “The last three years of my career were dogged by travails which are not dissimilar to the fate of Joseph in the book of Genesis in the Bible.
“As his brothers conspired to destroy him by throwing him into a well and selling him into slavery, my learned brothers and friends in the legal profession planned and executed doing evil to me.”
He spoke at a valedictory session organised to mark his retirement from the Court of Appeal.
The retired PCA was suspended after a clash with the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.
He was still serving the suspension until he left the service, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Justice Salami informed the gathering, which included top serving and retired judicial officers that the NJC sold out to the Executive and failed in its duties and functions.
He said, “The National Judicial Council created by the Constitution to protect me, nay any judicial officer was on the vanguard of my travails. The NJC failed in its duties and thereby surrendered its functions to the Executive arm of government thus, ingratiate itself to the Executive.
“For instance, the NJC, having cleared me of any wrongdoing, following the recommendations of Justice Aloma Mukhtar’s committee, ought to have recalled me to office without asking the President to exercise the power that he does not possess, on the flimsy excuse that it had earlier referred the matter to him.
“In truth, as a matter of courtesy, all it needed to do was to write the President that in view of its recent decision, this matter was now outside his purview.
“After so informing him, NJC would be free to take the necessary step to implement its decision.”
Continuing, Justice Salami said, “The position in which NJC has found itself is similar to that of the proverbial cock that betrayed itself to the fox that what was on his head was not fire and encouraged the fox to touch it.
“The fox, having satisfied itself that truly it was not fire, has since been hunting cocks to make menu of them.
“Also, when the report of the committee the NJC set up to make recommendation on Umaru Abdullahi’s report was submitted to it for ratification, neither the CJN nor the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court was present at the meeting.
“Justice Moses A. Bello, who was neither the CJN nor the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, took it upon himself to preside at the meeting contrary to the express provisions of sub-paragraph (a) and (b) of paragraph 20 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution.
“No other members of the NJC, including statutory members, could be chairman.”
The retired judge noted that Justice Bello was an impostor for claiming to be the Acting Chairman of NJC in the two letters he (Justice Bello) wrote to him, dated August 9 and 18, 2011.
This, he said, was because Bello was “neither a Justice of the Supreme Court, next most senior Justice of the court nor the CJN.”
He also accused the Council of treating matters of national importance with levity.
“This is the levity with which the NJC treats matters of national importance. Clearly, Justice Bello has not only behaved irresponsibly, but also recklessly,” he said.
He pointed out that the NJC took the decision to suspend him when his application for an order restraining the Council from deliberating on his case was pending before the Federal High Court.
Arguing that the matter was sub judice, he said, “It is this illegal decision that the NJC had been relying upon to keep me out of office from August 18, 2011.”
Salami noted that the Council treated him in a most cruel manner, employing all manner of tricks to sustain his suspension.
He said, “The NJC, a body set up to protect judicial officers, has dealt so cruelly with me.”
But he insisted that he had no regrets for his actions.
“I have no regret whatsoever over all that I did, having acted according to the dictate of my conscience and in the fear of Almighty God.
“I swore to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to do justice to all manner of people without fear or favour; God has helped me so to do.”
Acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, praised Justice Salami for his achievements in office.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Okey Wali, SAN, who was represented by Sunday Ameh, SAN, urged the Bar and Bench to reject attempts to compromise the independence of the Judiciary.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, was absent at the event and was not represented.
Adoke had advised Jonathan not to approve the NJC’s decision to reinstate Justice Salami on the grounds that the matter was sub judice.
The CJN, Justice Aloma Mukhtar; a former CJN, Justice Mohammed Uwais; Justice Mahmood Mohammed of the Supreme Court; and the President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, were among the dignitaries at the event.