Justice Ayo Salami is abandoning Buhari's anti-graft war, that's one helluva setback.
On September 27, 2017, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen--who was acting on a presidential directive—announced sweeping reforms aimed at tackling corruption in the judiciary.
Buhari’s major frustration in his war against corruption in Nigeria has been with the bench. Judges have been for hire for far too long while corruption cases take a long time to be determined no thanks to unending adjournments and interlocutory injunctions.
The CJN’s Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (ACTMC) was supposed to change all of that.
The ACTMC was supposed to determine corruption and financial crime cases expeditiously through special courts set up just for anti-corruption hearings.
Justice Salami was named Chairman of the ACTMC thanks to a past reputation hinged on fearlessness and uprightness. But he has sensationally turned down the job.
“I rejected the appointment because it is not in my interest”, Salami told Punch newspaper in an interview.
In 2011, the National Judicial Council (NJC) suspended Justice Salami. Then President Goodluck Jonathan would go on to replace Salami at the Court of Appeal.
In rejecting his appointment, Salami harked back to that incident when he was hung out to dry by the NJC. He wonders why he’ll honour an appointment from the same judicial system that once persecuted him.
“Where was the judiciary when they were harassing me? Where was the court when they were harassing me?”
His interviewer shot back with: “maybe the judiciary has now realized that you were unfairly treated.”
“So let them continue to do it in their own way”, Salami bellowed.
There were reports that the NJC hadn’t yet received Salami’s rejection letter. However, Salami insisted that he had indeed sent the letter of rejection to the NJC.
“Let them look for the letter. I have sent it”, Salami said.
All of which leaves CJN Onnoghen and the presidency in a quandary.
“His lordship, the Hon Chief Justice of Nigeria awaits Hon Salami’s letter of resignation”, read a statement sent to Punch by Awassam Bassey, Special Assistant to the CJN.
“Besides what we see in the media, we cannot exactly say what Justice Salami’s reasons are for declining to undertake this all important national assignment that he was called upon to perform.”
Salami’s rejection of this national assignment is a huge blow to the presidency’s war against corruption and an immense setback of some sort.
On October 25, 2017 while speaking at a workshop jointly organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Judicial Institute in Jabi, Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo referenced Ayo Salami’s headship of the committee as a pointer that the Buhari administration will soon win the anti-corruption war; with the imminent sorting out of the judiciary.
“….the constitution of the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Monitoring Committee headed by the Honourable Justice Salami and deservedly his Lordship was commended both locally and internationally.
“That plan is a crucial component of the anti-corruption agenda, proposed by the executive because impunity seems magnified when the trial of alleged perpetrators of corruption never seems to end”, Osinbajo said.
Justice Salami was a jigsaw in Buhari’s overall puzzle to tackle endemic graft, beginning with the judiciary. But now, he’s not there to be counted upon.