LAWYERS4CHANGE

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

EARTHQUAKE HITS LAGOS JUDICIARY: CJ STEPS ASIDE?


A few weeks after Honourable Justice Augustine Adetula Alabi was sworn in as the new Chief Judge of Lagos in August 2004, a member of the Progressive Bar Forum, the dominant political group in the NBA Ikeja branch told this reporter that the new Chief Judge would not complete his term in office. Said the lawyer, who claimed some knowledge about Alabi C.J:
“Mark my words, Alabi cannot use all his five years in that office. He will be sent packing before he finishes.”

For four and a half long years, this prediction did not come to pass. Now it looks as though the prophecy will yet prove true, going by the very strong information reaching the Squib in that regard. According to our sources, the executive arm of government in Lagos State, not particularly impressed with the quality of leadership Alabi C.J has provided the State Judiciary so far, had written to the National Judicial Council demanding that Alabi C.J proceed on his terminal leave (of about 5 months long). The request of the Lagos State Government is said to be a neat and convenient way of easing out the Chief Judge from his plum job. In the past few months, the Chief Judge faced a strong probe panel in Abuja in respect of a powerful petition alleging corrupt practices against the Chief Judge with regards to the disposal and appropriation of some attached goods. The Chief Judge’s counsel in that matter is Ebun Sofunde S.A.N.

The government was said to be unhappy with the alleged role of the C.J in the scandal that gave rise to the petition. A further estrangement was said to be caused by the decision of the Chief Judge to disengage the Office of the Attorney General in his defence in the suits brought against him by five leaders of the Lagos State Chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) following their dismissal from service in 2006 by the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge’s new legal representative is the firm of Afe Babalola and Co and for which representation was said to be procured for the sum of six million naira only, as opposed to the services of the Attorney General Chambers which cost the defendant nothing. Some people are wondering where the fees for Afe Babalola & Co came from, whether from the pocket of the Chief Judge or the coffers of the Lagos State Judiciary.

According to high perch geckos in the Lagos Judiciary, there are strong indications that the Chief Judge has been ordered by the NJC, in response to the Lagos State government’s letter, to vacate his office on or before the 1st April 2009 for the judge immediately below him, to wit, Inumidun Akande J, to take over.

For some time now, the Chief Judge has stopped sitting in his court, adjourning from chambers matters coming up for hearing. Secondly on Wednesday the 18th February 2009, Honourable Justice Inumidun Akande was seem. Rather uncharacteristically leaving her Lagos State Court base for a closed door meeting with the Chief Judge in his Ikeja High Court Chambers. There is even news that Akande J may take over from Alabi C.J as early as in two weeks time, (mid march 2009) as acting Chief Judge.

Unpopular with the very tactical Babatunde Raji Fashola led Government, it may not be a bad idea after all, for Chief Judge Alabi to step aside earlier than his normal retirement date of August 8 2009, to use and enjoy his accumulated leave which some geckos claim exceeds even five months.

Whatever time the Chief Judge finally leaves the scene, whether in due time (August 2009) or prematurely (March or April 2009), the majority of the Judiciary Staff are bound to rejoice heartily since they consider the tenure of Alabi Cj as hostile and harsh to them and their welfare interests.

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