The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the immediate compulsory retirement from office of Justice O. Gbaja-Biamila of Lagos State High Court and Justice Idris M. J. Evuti of the Niger State High Court.
Justice Gbaja-Biamila was recommended for retirement following allegations contained in the petitions written against him by Mr Candide Johnson, SAN.
The allegations against Justice Gbaja-Biamila are: That he delivered judgment in Suit No ID\1279\2007 P. K. Ojo vs SDV & SCOA Nigeria Plc 20 months after written addresses were adopted by all the counsel and 35 months after the close of evidence in the suit, contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgments should be delivered within a period of 90 days;
That he did not publish a copy of judgment he delivered on 24th December, 2013, until after 40 days, contrary to the provision of the Constitution which required that a copy of the judgment of a Superior Court of Record be given to parties in the case within seven days of delivery;
That he continued to hear the suit in his court after he had been notified of the pendency of a motion for a stay of execution at the Court of Appeal and that an appeal had been entered;
Prior to the issuance of the first writ of attachment, the Court Registrar under the direct administration of the judge falsely misrepresented to the Deputy Sheriff in a memo dated 28th November, 2014, that there was no appeal or motion in the case file as at 28th November 2014. Meanwhile, there were two notices of appeal and two summonses to settle records in the court’s file;
That he gave an Order on 23rd February, 2015 upon an ex-parte application substituting the name of SDV Nigeria Ltd with Bollore Logistics Nigeria Ltd without serving the order of substitution on the affected party or its legal representatives.
The above allegations constitute misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and Rules 1.3, 3.3, 3.4 and 3.7 of the 2016 Revised Code Of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In the interim, the National Judicial Council in exercise of its power under Paragraph 21 Sub-Paragraph (d) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, suspended Gbaja-Biamila from office with immediate effect.
The judicial body also considered another petition brought by Mohammed Idris Eggun against Justices Idris M. J. Evuti and Tanko Yusuf Usman of the High Court of Niger State bordering on falsification of their dates of birth.
Eggun had alleged that Justice Idris M. J. Evuti falsified his age from 15th September, 1950 to 10th April, 1953, while and Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman falsified his age from 27th June, 1950 to 27th June, 1951.
Reporters learnt that a fact-finding committee set-up by the council found from the records made available to it that Justice Evuti used three different dates of birth over the years as 15th September, 1950, 10th April, 1953 and 1st April, 1953. It therefore recommended his compulsory retirement with immediate effect.
Apart from the recommendation for compulsory retirement of Justice Evuti, Council recommended to the Government of Niger State to deduct all salaries received by him from September 2015 till date from his gratuity and remit same to the National Judicial Council that pays salaries of all judicial officers in the federation.
With respect to the Justice Tanko Usman, Council did not recommend his compulsory retirement because it had already accepted his retirement with effect from 1st March, 2016.
However, Council decided to write to the Government of Niger State to deduct from the gratuity the salaries received by him from June 2015 when he should have retired from the Bench.
Council at the same meeting exonerated Hon. Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, of misconduct as it found, unsubstantiated, a petition of alleged misconduct written against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The justice was alleged to have been biased in granting ex-parte orders of injunction against the commission in Suit No FNC\L\CS\767\15: BGL Ltd and Ors V. SEC without due regard to the relevant factors and circumstances of the case.
The counsel to the SEC, Oluwaseun Olusiyi, was also reported to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for disciplinary action for walking out on the judge on the matter when she was told the matter was not ripe for hearing.