By Ameh Ochojila
Access to Justice (A2J) has described the reinstatement of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia as an agonising stab to the soul and body of the judiciary.
In a statement by the convener of the civil society organisation, Joseph Otteh, it urged the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to immediately rescind its decision to reinstate Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia.
The statement reads in part: “The NJC’s decision to reinstate Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, in the face of serious and damning accusations against her, which the Council itself investigated and substantiated, is deeply unfortunate. The Council’s decision will cast a long, dark shadow over the Judiciary for a long time to come and amplify questions whether the Nigerian judiciary can continue to legitimately exercise judicial power.
“A judiciary’s legitimacy rests on the pedestal of public confidence and trust. A Judiciary that cannot offer that trust loses the moral authority to sit in judgment over others.
“By foisting a judge with an incredible load of baggage – details of which, by the way, are in the public domain – to sit in judgment over cases involving other people, the NJC pollutes the justice delivery process, and violates the rights of litigants to fair trial before a judge with requisite skills and reputation.”
The group declared that the Council’s decision was a grievous, staggering, inconceivable misjudgment and plumbs new depths of ridicule for the Judiciary.
The decision, it said, will further evoke strong concerns about the kind of judiciary Nigeria operates, and whether the NJC as presently constituted, can faithfully function as an accountability and oversight institution.
“The NJC badly managed the Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia case, and the question is why? This is the same Council that found Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia guilty of serious misconduct and recommended her removal. A high court may have quashed its recommendations, as well as ordered the Judge’s reinstatement, but the NJC had ample opportunity to defend its position through appellate corridors.
“Why did the Council capitulate so quickly without a contest? And what does that capitulation say about the seriousness of the NJC in maintaining integrity in the Judiciary?
“The NJC’s decision badly tarnishes the image of the Nigerian Judiciary and diminishes the image and credibility of all those who serve in the judiciary, including honest, conscientious judges and tars them with the same brush used in fixing Justice Ofili-Ajumogoba reabsorption,” it said.
The group, therefore, declared that government need to take another serious look at overhauling the judiciary to save it, or what remains of it, if it can take such a hugely disappointing decision, adding that is the way to safeguard the rule of law and re-inspire public confidence in the machinery of justice.