The last may not have been heard about the seemingly unending battle between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami. Just as the panel set up to look into the feud between the two justices and the resultant crisis in the judiciary wound up and submitted its report, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has constituted another panel.
Though the Justice Umaru Abdullahi Panel cleared both Katsina-Alu and Salami of any wrongdoing, a fresh panel has been set up to review the findings and report of the Abdullahi panel
The newly constituted panel is headed by the President of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta and the panel has been saddled with the responsibility of making specific recommendations for any erring party in the matter. Street Journal’s investigations revealed that the panel has seven working days to submit its report.
Opinions are divided within the NJC over the constitution of the Auta panel. While some members of the Council have described it as a step in the right direction because the Abdullahi panel was not given the mandate to make recommendations, some others are not supportive of the Auta panel. Those in the second school of thought believe it is an unusual thing in the judiciary for a junior to determine the fate of his superiors. It is also being said that the objective of finding a lasting solution to the crisis and restoring peace in the judicial system might have been defeated by the constitution of a review panel.
Street Journal found out that certain members within the NJC have held that Salami’s claims that the Chief Justice of Nigeria tried to influence him to pervert justice in the Sokoto election matter are baseless and as such, they want him to be sanctioned.
It is however being discussed within the council that a wrong approach is being used in the matter. According to some members, “It will not be fair for the President of the Federal High Court to determine the fate of the CJN and the President of the Court of appeal”
Street Journal has also found out that the judiciary may be in for another round of crisis because majority of those who make up the National Judicial Council were nominated by the CJN. So at the end of the day, there might still be allegations of bias.