A group in Ekiti State, the Ekiti Justice Group (EJG) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Muktah to probe the trip embarked to South Africa by all the judges in the State, describing the trip as suspicious and unwarranted.
All the 11 judges in the Ekiti State High Courts had travelled to South AfrEica last Saturday on the bill of the State government.
In a letter signed by the EJG Coordinator and Secretary, Comrade Ebenezer Olaleye and Gbenga Babawibe respectively, which was delivered at the office of the CJN in Abuja yesterday (Wednesday), the group alleged that about N200 million Ekiti State fund was released for the trip by the Ministry of Finance.
The letter dated March 20, 2013 read; “We humbly write to bring to your attention the trip to South-Africa embarked on by 11 High Court justices in Ekiti State on Saturday, March 16, 2013.
“Though the purpose of this trip is not known, but we are reliably informed that the State Government, which sponsored the trip, claimed that it was for the judges to attend a training programme in South Africa.
“We are also aware that it is only the National Judicial Institute (NJI) that is saddled with the responsibility of organising and, or approving trainings (both local and international) for judges in the country.
“Most worrisome is the fact that it was the State Ministry of Justice that organised the trip, with the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and Solicitor General as part of the contingents. About N200 million Ekiti State fund is alleged to have been released for the trip by the Ministry of Finance.
“Also, all High Courts in Ekiti State have been under locks and keys since Monday, with no official explanation as to the judges South Africa trip thereby leaving litigants and lawyers stranded. Lawyers, who came from far and near on Monday to Ekiti State on the account of cases their clients have before the judges had were stranded as no one gave them any prior information that the judges had travelled.
“This trip also has serious implication on the independence of the judiciary in Ekiti State, which was the essence of the law passed by the State House of Assembly under the Segun Oni Administration which granted Financial Autonomy to the judiciary arm of government in 2008. We believe as other members of the public do that the trip is a ploy to arm-twist the judiciary and influence the judges in the State, who have remained one of the most vibrant and upright in Nigeria notably with the courage of some of the judges in rebuffing undue pressure of the Government and giving landmark judgments against the executive lawlessness of the government in power.
“It also important to point out that the State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was also in South-Africa to receive a dubious award of “Best Governor in Africa” last week and we are of the opinion that there is political undertone to the judges trip to South-Africa. The NJC owes Nigerians a duty to prevent such political onslaught on the judiciary as this portends serious danger for the country.
“Our questions therefore are: Was the NJI aware of this trip? Was the State Judicial Service Commission involved in the trip? If Ekiti State Ministry of Justice is lavishing State fund on judges’ foreign trip, what is the fate of litigants whose cases against the State government are still pending before these judges? What is the essence of shutting down the Ekiti State judiciary for SEVEN days?
“We are therefore urging you to use your good offices to direct an inquiry into this trip with a view to unravelling its propriety and the rationale behind it.”