Some leaders of the All Progressives Congress, including a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and a former military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday in Abuja, made a surprise appearance at the public presentation of a book written in honour of the retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.
The book titled, “Isa Ayo Salami: Through Life and Justice,” was written to mark Salami’s retirement from service.
The former PCA retired while still serving a suspension placed on him by the National Judicial Council following a disagreement he had with a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.
The APC delegation, which arrived shortly after the commencement of the event, also included the party’s National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, the governors of Osun, Ekiti and Zamfara states, Rauf Aregbesola, Kayode Fayemi, and Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, respectively.
Others include the APC party’s spokesperson, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, as well as several national and state lawmakers in the party.
On behalf of ‘eleven progressive governors’ of the APC, Yari, the chief presenter, purchased 250 copies of the book in the sum of N55m.
According to him, the books are to be donated to Nigerian universities.
In an address at the event, Justice Salami, who retired after reaching 70 years on October 15, 2013, said he had no regrets for refusing to pervert the course of justice, as he was allegedly instructed by the former CJN, Justice Katsina-Alu, even though the development led to his suspension from office.
He said, “I realise the public interest that my feud with the NJC and former CJN Katsina-Alu generated. It is obvious that people want to know what the fuss was actually about, and briefly put, this is it.
“I was invited by the then CJN, Justice Katsina-Alu to his chambers on the 8th of February, 2010, using Justice Dahiru Musdapher’s phone, and when I got there, I met them together (Justice Musdapher was the next in line to him at the Supreme Court).
“He (Katsina-Alu) instructed me to direct the Justices of the Sokoto Appeal to dismiss the appeal of the Democratic Peoples Party governorship candidate and I responded that I could not do so.
“Contrary to the deposition of Justice Katsina-Alu that he called me into his Chambers in respect of leakage in the judgment of Sokoto matter which he gathered from petitions, there were no petitions against me or the Justices in the Sokoto Appeal Panel as at the 8th day of February, 2010, on Sokoto matter or any other matter.
“Ironically, the petitions in question only emerged on the 15th of February 2010, seven days after I had unequivocally informed the CJN that I would not direct a competent court on what its judgment should be.”
Justice Salami added that, after showing him the petitions on the 15th of February, Justice Katsina-Alu asked him to disband the Sokoto Appeal Panel in view of the petitions.
“I responded that I would not disband the panel as the petitions did not contain any allegation of impropriety against the members. In my response to the petitions, I made known what transpired at our meetings of 8th and 15th February, 2010.
“It was in his own submission to the NJC on my response that he now alleged that the reason for calling me was that the judgment in the Sokoto matter has leaked and that he gathered the allegation that the judgment had leaked from petitions written against me,” he said.
The former PCA maintained that the Investigating Panel set up by the NJC under Justice Umaru Abdullahi (former President Court of Appeal) rejected Justice Katsina-Alu’s claim that there was an allegation of leakage in the petitions.
“In spite of this they concluded that he (Justice Katsina-Alu) was acting in good faith. On this, I won’t say more.
“I thank the Almighty God that I refused to pervert the course of justice. Disbanding the panel or persuading them to dismiss the appeal was not the right thing to do.
“It would have offended the principle of the independence of judges which I so much respect and believe in.
“As a matter of fact, I will simply say that if I had done what the then head of the Nigerian judiciary had wanted me to do, I would not have this honour and if at all this book was published, it would be shameful and hypocritical of me to stand before you and talk about honour and integrity – two things which define a fine judicial officer alongside the grasp of the law,” he said.
The chairman of the event, and a former CJN, Justice Mohammed Uwais, stressed that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had no powers to suspend, or recall Justice Salami.
The NJC had after deciding to suspend Justice Salami, written President Goodluck Jonathan to approve the suspension.
Also, after deciding to recall him, the Council had written to the President to approve the decision. The President had declined, arguing that the matter was sub judice.
Justice Uwais said the NJC erred by referring the issue to the President.
He noted that the NJC was not fair to Justice Salami.
“It follows that Justice Isa Ayo Salami has been unfairly treated by the NJC. It is disturbing, to say the least, that the NJC, whose membership consists of eminent and experienced judges and lawyers, should act in the manner they treated Justice Salami,” he said.
In a short remark at the event, Tinubu extolled Justice Salami’s courage and perseverance.
“Thank you Justice Salami for teaching us courage, thank you for teaching us perseverance.
“In the ocean of corruption you have provided a craft.
“At this critical time in the history of our country we need more men like you who can stand and confront the abuse of power,” he told the retired PCA.
In a keynote address, titled “Justice is never siddon look,” Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, spoke against all forms of injustice in the country, particularly in the judiciary.