Lawyers in Abuja have condemned the National Judicial Council (NJC) over the recent sack of Justice Charles Archibong of a Lagos high court over alleged judicial misconduct.
Speaking to journalists, one of the lawyers, Mr. Ugochukwu Osuagwu, said the action of the NJC was illegal and ultra vires since the affected judge was not given fair hearing.
According to Mr Osuagwu, the dismissed judge travelled to the United States of America (USA) on an official duty on the express permission and approval of the Chief Justice of Nigeria the day the NJC panel sat to hear the matter.
However, he said while abroad, Justice Archibong was purportedly “arraigned and tried” in absentia while he was not given any fair hearing.
According to another lawyer, Sylvia Okonkwo, while Justice Charles Archibong might have petitioned the presidency over his dismissal, it is obvious that the was denied fair hearing which is against the rule of law principle.
Speaking in the same vein with Barrister Osuagwu, she said the NJC panel ought to have invited Justice Archibong to appear before it where he could have cross-examined his accusers.
According to her, the right to fair hearing is immutable. “If a judge can be sacked by just a wave of hand is a display of impunity.”
Arguing further, she said “under section 36 of the 1999 constitution as amended, ?the right to fair hearing is sacrosanct”.
Also speaking in the same vein, Mr Jude Ifesemen, also an Abuja based lawyer, condemned the action of the NJC, saying for Justice Archibong to be sacked, due process should be followed and accused the body of putting the cart before the horse by surreptiously arriving at a predetermined decision without following due process, saying that the action of the NJC is inimical to the integrity of the systems arguing that certain basic institutional structures must be protected and pointing out that the NJC is an exalted body that ought to know and apply the principles of natural justice and its effects and impact on society.
LEADERSHIP recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Justice Charles Archibong following the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.
Archibong was alleged to have that the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused person, a former managing director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, without taking his plea.
Another of Archibong’s sin was that he refused to release the Certified True Copy of his ruling to the lawyers. That the judge
issued a bench warrant on some officials of the Peoples Democratic Party for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them an affidavit had not been able to serve the contempt application.
“That he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria. That there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court.
“That he granted the leave sought in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier overruled the preliminary objection.”