Angry Justice Salami reveals why he rejected anti-corruption panel job, says Judiciary abandoned him
A former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (retd.), on Thursday broke his silence on his appointment as the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee set up by the National Judicial Council.
Salami divulged his reason for rejecting the appointment in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday.
A national newspaper had earlier reported on Thursday that Salami rejected the appointment because of some persons included as members of the committee.
But Salami confirmed to our correspondent in a telephone interview that he rejected the appointment because it was not in his interest.
Insisting that contrary to the statement issued by the Office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria on Thursday that it had yet to be formally notified of Salami’s decision to reject the appointment, the former President of the Court of Appeal told our correspondent that he had sent a formal letter to the appropriate authorities to that effect.
Making a veiled reference to the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s refusal to reinstate him as the President of the Court of Appeal despite NJC’s recommendation that he should be returned to office, Salami told our correspondent that the NJC and the courts abandoned him during his trying time.
The following conversation ensued between him and our correspondent:
The PUNCH: You have been unreachable since you were offered the appointment by the NJC. Why sir?
Salami: When they announced the constitution of the committee, I was not in the country.
The PUNCH: why did you reject the appointment?
Salami: I rejected the appointment because it is not in my interest.
The PUNCH: What do you mean sir?
Salami: What I mean is that it is not in my interest; that was why I rejected it.
The PUNCH: I want you to elaborate on ‘not being in your interest, sir.
Salami: It is because I don’t need it.
The PUNCH: But it seems the judiciary needs your help.
Salami: To do what in the judiciary?
The PUNCH: I think it was to help the judiciary to remove the obstacles hindering successful prosecution of high profile corruption cases.
Salami: Where was the judiciary when they were harassing me? Where was the court when they were harassing me?
The PUNCH: Maybe the judiciary has now realised that you were unfairly treated.
Salami: So, let them continue to do it in their own way.
The PUNCH: But what we heard was that you rejected the appointment because of some persons appointed to work with you as members of the committee.
Salami: It is not; I don’t just feel like doing it. it is not because of anybody.
The PUNCH: But the CJN and the NJC said they had not received your letter rejecting the appointment.
Salami: Let them look for it, I have sent it.
The PUNCH: You have sent the letter?
Salami: Yes, of course. If I have not sent it, how did they know?
The PUNCH: They said they learnt of your rejection through a news report.
Salami: But it is there in the report that that the information was released by sources close to the Supreme Court. Didn’t you read it?
Justice Salami ended the conversation immediately after giving his last response.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, had on Thursday said he had yet to receive a formal letter by Salami rejecting his appointment as the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee set up by the National Judicial Council.
It was reported on Thursday that Salami had rejected his appointment.
Confirming the report, the Senior Special Assistant to the CJN, Mr. Awassam Bassey, said in a text message sent to our correspondent on Thursday that Salami had yet to disclose the reason for his decision to reject his appointment.
Bassey’s text message read, “I refer to the issue you raised this morning and I can confirm that it is true; I mean the resignation of Hon. Mr. Justice Ayo Salami (retd). Besides what we see in the media, we cannot exactly say what Justice Salami’s reasons are for declining to undertake this all-important national assignment that he was called upon to perform.
“His Lordship, the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria awaits Hon Salami’s letter of resignation. That’s all I can say at this moment. A more detailed response will be communicated to you when we receive Hon. Mr. Justice Salami’s letter.”
The CJN had on September 18 announced sweeping reforms to fight corruption on the bench and to better position the judiciary to fairly and expeditiously determine corruption and financial crime cases.
One of such mechanisms, Justice Onnoghen had said, would be the creation of Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee to monitor and enforce the new policies.
One of such new policies announced by CJN was the designation of special courts for corruption and financial crimes.
The CJN also directed all heads of courts to compile and forward to the NJC lists of all corruption and financial crime cases being handled by their various court.
He added that heads of various courts, including the Supreme Court had also been directed to “clamp down” on both prosecuting and defence lawyers, who tried to stall criminal cases.
The CJN also directed heads of court to report such cases to the NJC, which would, in turn, report it to the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, in the case of senior advocates; and to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee in the case of other legal practitioners.
He was worried about concerns expressed by members of the public on the very slow speed corruption cases in particular were being heard or determined by courts.
The monitoring committee to be set up by the NJC is expected to monitor the new policies.
The CJN had said, “In this regard, we have just directed heads of court to clamp down on both prosecuting and defence counsel who indulge in the unethical practice of deploying delay tactics to stall criminal trials.” Punch