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Nigerian lawyers applaud Appeal Court judgement banning EFCC from prosecuting judges

Nigerian lawyers applaud Appeal Court judgement banning EFCC from prosecuting judges

- The Appeal Court recently ruled that the EFCC cannot prosecute serving judges

- The court ruled that a serving judge cannot be prosecuted until he has been dismissed or retired by the National Judicial Council

Senior lawyers in Nigeria have commended the recent judgement by the Appeal Court that a serving judge cannot be prosecuted until he has been forcibly retired or dismissed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday, December 12, also struck out the corruption charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a serving judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa.

This Day reports that the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Oliseh Agbakoba (SAN), while reacting to the ruling said the court has once again upheld the separation of powers.

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Agbakoba said: “The court has not said that judges cannot be prosecuted. It has only said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is constitutionally authorised to make the decision that will lead to their prosecution.

“That is the correct position, I entirely agree with that decision. So many Supreme Court cases back it up.

“Where a panel is set up to investigate a person constitutionally, that panel will have to first deal with the matter and recommend whatever punishment that is appropriate.

“The power to discipline a judge does not rest with the EFCC, the power to prosecute a judge rests with the EFCC upon the recommendation of the NJC.

“The judgment absolutely has implications for the separation of powers. The judgment confirms that executive interference in the judiciary will no longer be tolerated. That is what the judgment says."

Another past president of the NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) weighed in on the judgement.

Olanipekun said: “The issue is recondite. It is novel. It has never happened before.

"When you weigh all these against the clear provisions of the Constitution as to the roles, the position, the jurisdiction, the powers of the NJC to employ, to discipline, to reprimand, to sanction, to suspend, to promote, to hire and fire judges, then you will see the more recondite nature of the issues involved.

“The law evolves, it is never static. But to my mind, it is an issue that will definitely get to the Supreme Court. Let the Supreme Court have the final say on it.”

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Meanwhile, previously reported that the constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has thrown his weight behind the court of Appeal judgment in Lagos, which ruled that the EFCC does not have the powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where they had been first dismissed by the NJC.

Ozekhome described the verdict as one that has asserted the independence of the judiciary as contained in the constitution.

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