The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the immediate sack of Justice S. O. Falola, from the bench of the Osun State High Court, over acts of professional misconduct.
The decision to sack the judge was taken at the 104th meeting of the NJC held between December 6 and 7, 2023 and chaired by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
A statement from the council disclosed that the recommendation was made sequel to findings of an investigation committee in a petition written against the judge by Mr Dapo Kolapo Olowo and Polaris Bank.
Justice Falola was said to have granted a Garnishee Order Absolute against the bank for the sum of N283,174,000.00 “in a questionable and strange manner”, in addition to endorsement of the order and attaching the account of the garnishee with another garnishee and not the account of the judgment debtor who had the legal obligation to pay the supposed judgment sum.
“They found that the subject judge misconducted himself by entertaining suit no HIK/41/2018 when there was no evidence of a judgment of the Kwara State High Court before him, neither was there a certificate of registration of same in Osun State to confer jurisdiction on him.
“It further found the conduct of the subject judge travelling to Lagos to visit the counsel of the bank in his chambers on the issue of garnishee proceedings, unbecoming of the standard expected of a judicial officer.
“Consequently, council resolved to recommend him to Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State for compulsory retirement with immediate effect,” the statement read in part.
The statement signed by NJC’s Director, Information, Mr Soji Oye, however stated that the council in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution has suspended Justice Falola from office pending the approval of the recommendation of his compulsory retirement by the Osun State Governor.
Meanwhile, the NJC after its consideration of the reports of other investigation committees that had concluded their sittings, dismissed the petitions against Justice Ekaete F. F. Obot, Chief Judge, Akwa Ibom State; Justice Benson C. Anya of High Court Abia State; Justice Z. B. Abubakar of Federal High Court, Hon. Justice Opufaa Ben-Whyte and Augusta Uche K. Chuku of the High Court of Rivers State, for being unmeritorious, or withdrawal of petition by the petitioners.
However, Justice A. I. Akobi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is to be issued a letter of guidance to take proper charge and control of his court.
“The plenary also considered the report of its three Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees on 51 fresh petitions written against Federal and State judicial officers and decided to constitute 11 panels to investigate petitions that had merits and dismissed the remaining petitions for being subjudice, having been withdrawn, and the subject judges having retired from service.
“Council also resolved to report A. A. Aribisala (SAN) to Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) for investigation and disciplinary action, for the unpalatable and derogatory remarks he made against a judicial officer and by extension, the NJC in his petition to the council,” it said.
Similarly, the NJC, in its meeting, turned down the request of Governor Adeleke for the suspension of the state Chief Judge (CJ), on grounds that it is the only body by law to discipline judicial officers.
The Osun State Government had been at loggerheads with the CJ over alleged acts of misconduct, leading to his suspension by the government. However, following strong condemnation by the public and the judiciary, the state government denied suspending the CJ.
“Council considered and declined the request of Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State requesting its permission to swear in the next most senior judge in the state in acting capacity, following allegations levelled against Justice Adepele Ojo, Chief Judge, Osun State and the resolution of the state House of Assembly to suspend him.
“The council affirmed that Justice Ojo is still the recognised Chief Judge of Osun State, and would not work on the resolution of a state House of Assembly, as it is the only body constitutionally empowered to investigate judicial officers and recommend same for any action to the governor. Consequently, Osun State should revert to status quo.
“It also received notification of retirements of seven judicial officers and notification of deaths of six serving judicial officers of Federal and State courts,” the statement added.