Today, an important step towards the restoration of confidence in the Nigerian judiciary will be taken, that is if the Nigerian Judicial Council decides finally to re-instate suspended Justice Salami. Justice Salami whose suspension was recommended by the NJC last year has been in a limbo. His suspension generated much condemnation and controversy because of the political mix and a near dog fight by the most senior members of the judiciary. Katsina-Alu, the then CJN was at loggerheads with Salami over election tribunal matters and the disagreements broke into the open.
Today, February 29, the NJC will meet again over the reports of two of its in house committees and make a final recommendation.
When President Jonathan last year agreed to suspend Salami, he said he was going by the decision and recommendation of the NJC. Now that the same NJC in two separate reports have recommended is re-instatement, it is expected that the government will put politics aside and act in favour of justice and equity.
The Nigerian judiciary has of recent come under increasing scrutiny because of its direct involvement in politics in favour of the ruling party. The handling of the Salami case exposed the rot in the judiciary at the very top. Strident calls were made for the restoration of the reputation for the judiciary with the major stroke of resolving the Salami case. Salami, one of Nigeria’s most respected justices and one of the most senior was shoved aside in an apparent hatchet job, planned from above and executed by the then CJN who became openly hostile and partisan. The suspension led to weeks of protests by lawyers and groups across the country. Yet the President went ahead to approve the suspension. The message sent to Nigerians by the government was simply that our Judges will have to decide between dispensing justice or keeping their jobs.
The present CJN, Musdapher while assuming office promised to sanitize the judiciary and the President while swearing him in promised to give him all the support. Now the rubber has met the road. The CJN has presented a clear position on the Salami issue and other important matters relation to re-positioning the judiciary. Nigerians wait to see if President Jonathan is a disciplined President and a sincere leader able to rise above parochial party politics to save the judiciary, the last hope of the common man and the best safeguard of Nigeria’s democracy.