The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has voided the compulsory retirement of Justice Gladys Olotu of the Federal High Court, who was indicted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for dereliction of duty. The Appellate Court, in a unanimous judgement, held that Justice Olotu was removed through a flawed process.
A three-member panel of the court, led by Justice Peter Ige, held that since the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) did not recommend that Justice Olotu be compulsorily retired, the recommendation made by the NJC to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in that regard was unlawful, null and void.
Justice Danladi Senchi who read the lead judgment noted that since the FJSC is constitutional empowered to recommend lawyers for appointment as federal judges, its recommendation is also necessary before such a judge could be relieved of his or her appointment.
The court further held that without the FJSC first recommending a judge for removal, such recommendation by the NJC (in the case of Justice Olotu) and the subsequent acceptance of the recommendation by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were a nullity.
Justice Senchi set aside the earlier judgment by Justice E. N. Agbakoba of the National Industrial Court of Nigera (NICN) which upheld Justice Olutu’s compulsory retirement.
“On the whole, I find the appeal meritorious and it is accordingly allowed. The judgement of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in suit number NICN/ABJ/380/2016 delivered on 20th day of September 2017 by E. N. Agbakoba J. is hereby set aside.
“Consequently, the decision of the National Judicial Council made in February 2014 recommending to the President, the removal of the appellant, and the approval of the President, acting on the recommendation of the second respondent (NJC), are declared null and void and of no effect whatsoever,” Justice Senchi said.
The judgment was on an appeal by Justice Olotu, marked: CA/A/385/2018, which has as respondents; the President, NJC, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
Justice Olotu was appointed a judge of Federal High Court on July 28, 2000 and inaugurated on September 1, 2000.
The NJC recommended her compulsory retirement in 2014, which the then President accepted. Meanwhile, the court was however silent on whether or not she should be recalled.