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NJC probes Justice Talba over Pension Fund judgment

By Joe Nwankwo/Abuja

National Judicial Council (NJC) has set up an investigative panel to probe the allegations levelled against Justice Abubakar Talba of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over his recent judgment in the case involving John Yusuf who was found guilty of stealing N32 billion of Police Pension Fund.

Justice Talba had in his judgment sentenced Yusuf to two years in prison for each of the three counts for which he was standing trial to run concurrently with an option of fine of N250,000 on each of the counts.

The NJC also recommended compulsory retirement of Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and Justice T.D. Naton of the High Court of Plateau State over corrupt practices.

The NJC, under the Chairmanship of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, took these decisions at its emergency meeting on Wednesday.

According to a statement by Acting Director Information in the NJC, Soji Oye, “Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, pursuant to the ‘Findings’ by the Council on the following complaints levelled against him:-

•That the Judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused without taking his plea;

•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 filed an affidavit that he 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 Hon. Justice Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court; and

•That he granted the leave sought for 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 on overruled the preliminary objection.

It would be recalled that Justice Archibong had last year described five Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including the immediate past President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Joseph Daudu, as grossly incompetent.

The legal profession in Nigeria was said to have received its greatest insult when in dismissing a 26-count charge brought against the former CEO of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, Justice Archibong described the team of lawyers instructed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) composed of five SANs, including Daudu, as incompetent and directed the Attorney General of the Federation to disband and debrief them.

Other members of the team included: Koyinsola Ajayi, Emmanuel Ukala, A.B Mahmoud and Damien Dodo.

Justice Naron of Plateau State High Court was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor David Jonah Jang sequel to ‘findings’ by the NJC that there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of mms and sms (text) messages between the judge and one of the lead counsel for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal contrary to the code of conduct for judicial officers as provided for by Section 292(1((b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The statement said: “The National Judicial Council has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, suspended the two Judges from office with immediate effect.

“The Council also set up a ‘Fact Finding’ Committee to investigate the allegations levelled against Hon. Justice Abubakar Talba of FCT High Court in the Police Pension case of EFCC vs Mr. John Yusuf and Ors.”

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