Judgement day is at hand for the 23 judges across the country being investigated for corruption.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) which is conducting the probe has fixed April 22 and 23 to consider reports on the judges alleged to have been involved in the sale of judgement.
Those found wanting will be compulsorily retired or dismissed depending on the degree of their offences, investigation in Abuja has shown.
But those cleared might be recommended for higher positions on the bench.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, sources said, has blocked all avenues for intercession on behalf of those under investigation.
All the committees saddled with the investigation of each case have submitted their reports to the CJN, who is preparing a brief on each case.
It was gathered that a Federal High Court judge, noted for controversial judgments, has been running helter-skelter to save his job
Those under investigation include three to four state chief judges, a few justices of the Court of Appeal, as well as federal and state high court judges.
Allegations against the judges range from judgment fixing to unethical romance with litigants, outright sale of judgments, graft and bribery and engaging in delivery of questionable judgments.
Other allegations are entertaining matters beyond jurisdiction, contradiction of rulings or judgments on similar matters, dismissal of cases without taking pleas, and selling electoral petitions to the highest bidders and peddling influence among politicians.
A source familiar with the matter said: “The NJC will meet on April 22 and 23 to consider the reports of the different panels raised to look into the allegations against the affected judges.
“The meeting will be historic because this is the first time the nation will be witnessing a mass purge like this if all the judges are swept out of the bench.
“Some of the judges have been begging for soft-landing but the CJN has insisted on the law taking its course in view of the ongoing reform of the judiciary.
“Her vision is to reshape the Judiciary ahead of 2015 and beyond in order to protect the integrity of the Judiciary and consolidate our democracy.
“Definitely, the NJC will step on toes but it is worth it to redeem the dwindling image of the Judiciary. Disciplinary action will also assist other judges to dispense justice without fear or favour.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “After sanitizing the bench, the reform will be extended to court registries nationwide where clerks perpetrate fraud.
“There is anxiety, no doubt, but only the guilty should be afraid. The CJN wants to assert the independence of the Judiciary to give hope to the common man.”
The National Judicial Council is one of the federal executive bodies created by virtue of Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to insulate the judiciary from the whims and caprices of the executive.
According to sections 20, 21 and 22 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council shall comprise the following members-
a) the Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the
b) the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman;
c) the President of the Court of Appeal;
d) five retired justices selected by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal;
e) the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court;
f) five Chief Judges of States to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Chief Judges of the States and of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in rotation to serve for two years;
g) one Grand Kadi to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among Grand Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
h) one President of the Customary Court of Appeal to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Presidents of the Customary courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
i) five members of the Nigerian Bar Association who have been qualified to practise for a period of not less than fifteen years, at least on of whom shall be Senior Advocate of Nigeria, appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to serve for two years and subject to reappointment:
Provided that the five members shall sit in the council only for the purposes of considering the names of persons for appointment to the superior courts of records; and
j) two persons not being legal practitioners who in the opinion of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are of unquestionable integrity.
The National Judicial Council shall have power to-
a) recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by-
i. the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court, and
ii. the Judicial Service Committee of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Judge and Judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Grand Kadi and Kadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the President and Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
b) recommend to the President the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
c) recommend to the Governors from among the list of persons submitted to it by the State Judicial Service Commissions persons for appointments to the offices of the Chief Judges of the States and Judges of the High Courts of the States, the Grand Kadis and Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal of the States;
d) recommend to the Governors the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph (c) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
e) collect, control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary;
f) advise the President and Governors in any matter pertaining to the judiciary as may be referred to the council by the President or the Governors;
g) appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over members and staff of the council;
h) control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the services of the council; and
i) deal with all other matters relating to broad issues of policy and administration.”
---------YUSUF ALLI/THE NATION, Sunday, April 14, 2013