Supreme Court reinstates Kwara’s sacked Chief Judge
Almost three years, after she was removed from office by the then Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, the Supreme Court on Friday reinstated the Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Raliat Elelu-Habeeb holding that the state governor does not have the absolute power to remover her from office without input from the National Judicial Council.
A panel constituted of 7 Judges were unanimous in their judgment that the Nigeria Judicial Commission (NJC) had a role to play before a state governor could remove the chief judge of the state from office.
Justice Mahmud Mohammed who delivered the lead judgment held that when all the relevant provisions of the constitution were read together, it would become obvious that a state governor could not remove a chief judge from office without having recourse to the NJC.
“It is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers of removal of a chief judge of a state by the governor and house of assembly, the first port of call by the governor shall be the NJC,” he said.
According to him, the council is equipped with the personnel and resources to investigate the inability of the chief judge to discharge the functions of its office, the subject of disciplinary action of removal through the committees of the council.
Justice Mohammed further said that “from very clear provisions of the constitution which are very far from being ambiguous, the governors of the states and the houses of assembly of the states cannot exercise disciplinary control touching on the removal of chief judges of states or other judicial officers in the states.”
Justice Elelu-Habeeb was sacked by the former Kwara State Governor in 2009. She consequently dragged the government of Kwara State to the Federal High Court challenging the power of the state’s House of Assembly and the State Government to initiate disciplinary action against her. The lower court reached a decision in her favour, a decision which was subsequently upheld by the Appeal Court in Ilorin division and now the Supreme Court
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