The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, was absent from the launching and public presentation of a book which was initially planned in her honour on Monday.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported that the NJC headed by the CJN at its meeting last week barred writing of books and organising such events in honour of serving judges. The President of the Court of Appeal is also a member of the NJC.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who was supposed to be the chairman of the occasion, was also absent from the event which took place at Sheraton Hotel in Abuja on Monday.
In Justice Mohammed’s stead, one of his predecessors, Justice Mohammed Uwais, was made the chairman of the occasion.
In confirmation of The PUNCH’s story on Monday, Bulkachuwa was absent from the event and the Court of Appeal’s tie to the event was completely removed.
The invite which had been sent weeks before the event took place on Monday, had indicated that the presentation and launching of the book, ‘Cases and Materials on Election Petitions and Appeals,’ was co-organised by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and the Court of Appeal.
The invite had also indicated that the event was organised to celebrate Bulkachuwa as the first female President of the Court of Appeal.
However, on Monday, the programme of event showed that it had been re-tagged ‘Special Democracy Week Interactive Seminar and Presentation/Launching of the Book: Cases and Materials on Election Petitions and Appeals.’
When contacted, the President of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, confirmed to our correspondent that the event was deliberately re-organised in deference to the NJC’s directive.
Akinseye-George said, “As soon as we read The PUNCH’s report last Thursday, we circulated a letter to all our invitees informing them of the development and that the book event would no longer be in honour of the President of the Court of Appeal. This was because we did not want to be seen to be running afoul of the directive of our regulatory body, that is, the NJC.
“The honourable President of the Court of Appeal also attested to it and told us that she would not be able to attend the event. That was why we named the programme ‘Special Democracy Week Interactive Seminar.’
“At the beginning of the event we circulated the letter we wrote to our invitees and we informed them that anybody that had come purposely for the launching of the book in honour of the President of the Court of Appeal could leave. Some people left and that was why you saw the population in the hall was lean. So, we complied with the NJC’s directive.”
Our correspondent had gathered that the council lamented over the implication of such book presentations which usually attracted donations from politicians and most of the time litigants whose cases would come before such judges.
The council was said to have directed those who intended to honour a judge with book presentation to wait for the time such judge retires from office.
According to the source, the issue was tabled before the council by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, referring to a report in The PUNCH of May 18, 2015 and This Day newspaper on the recent presentation of a book written in honour of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
The PUNCH’s feature story titled ‘Donations in honour of judges raise ethical questions’ reported that the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Esama, donated N8m towards the book, ‘Encyclopedia of Civil Procedures and Practices of Superior Courts.’
The source, who spoke with our correspondent, said that the CJN was not happy with the development, following which the NJC took the decision to bar serving judges from accepting books being written in their names.
“The NJC has said that such honour should be reserved for retired judges,” the source said.
The book presentation event on April 30, 2015, took place on the same day that Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Abuja sentenced one of Igbinedion’s sons, Michael, to a six-year jail term with an option of N3m fine for N25bn money laundering offences.