Reasons for the rancorous relationship between Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, were revealed on Saturday.
According to some of the documents obtained by SUNDAY PUNCH, the turbulent relationship between the duo started in 2006.
Justice Ademola, who was one of the seven judges arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services on allegations of corruption during simultaneous raids on their homes between October 7 and 8, 2016, stated this in a letter to the National Judicial Council.
Justice Ademola, in his letter dated October 11, 2016 and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, alleged that the ordeal he faced during the raid on his home and his subsequent arrest was instigated by Malami.
He explained that Malami instigated his arrest to take his pound of flesh after he (the judge) had pressed a case of professional misconduct against the minister while he (the minister) was still practising as a lawyer in Kano.
The judge said he was then a judge of the Federal High Court serving in the Kano Division.
An extract from the letter read, “What is more intriguing in this whole episode is that I see it as revenge from the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. While I was in Kano between 2004 and 2007 as a Federal High Court judge, he was involved in a professional misconduct necessitating his arrest and detention by my order.
“However, with the intervention of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kano branch, the allegation of misconduct was later withdrawn by me.
“Consequently, the National Judicial Council referred Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Nigerian Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee.”
Documents obtained by SUNDAY PUNCHrevealed how petitions dated October 10, 2006 and December 11, 2006, sent by Malami to the NJC against Justice Ademola allegedly backfired.
The minister was forced to withdraw the petition through a letter dated December 14, 2006, but the NJC considered the withdrawal to be late.
In one of the documents obtained by our correspondent, the minister indicated in a correspondence to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, the body that confers SAN rank on deserving lawyers, how his allegation against the judge had cost him the rank of SAN in 2007.
He subsequently wrote a letter to the LPPC indicating that he had apologised and obtained Justice Ademola’s forgiveness so that the matter would not jeopardise his bid to become a SAN in 2008.
In one of the said petitions against Justice Ademola, Malami was said to have made a claim which he attributed to his client, that the judge had an interest in the proceeds of a case which was the subject matter of a suit the judge was presiding over.
A letter by the NJC dated April 30, 2007, exonerating Justice Ademola, described Malami’s allegation against the judge as unfounded.
Concerned about the “grievous allegations” levelled against the judge, the NJC under the chairmanship of the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Legbo Kutigi (retd.) referred the matter to the Nigerian Bar Association for “appropriate actions it deems fit in the circumstance.”
The NJC, in the letter signed by its secretary, Mr. Danladi Halilu, and with reference number NJC/A.7/S.2/X/146, stated that it found Justice Ademola’s explanation satisfactory and Malami’s petition baseless.
The letter was addressed to Malami.
The NJC’s letter read in part, “Your letters of 10th and 14th December, 2006, to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National National Judicial council, respectively, on the above subject matter, were considered by the Council at its last meeting which was held on 14th March, 2007.
“At the end of deliberations, the council found the explanation by Justice F. A Ademola satisfactory and your petition baseless. Consequently, Justice Adeniyi F. A. Ademola had been exonerated from all the allegations contained therein.
“Further, Council noted with concern the unfounded grievous allegations levelled by you against the judge in the petition.
“Therefore, the matter is being referred to the Nigerian Bar Association for its consideration and any appropriate action it deems fit in the circumstance.”
In another letter dated April 30, 2007, signed by Halilu and which was addressed to the Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (also the CJN), the NJC described Malami’s allegation against Justice Ademola as “spurious.”
THE NJC stated, “The Managing Director of Standard Alliance Financial Services Limited, N. Baffa, for whom Abubakar Malami Esq. appeared as counsel in the above-mentioned suit denied knowledge of the content of the petition, which means Abubakar Malami decided on his own to make spurious allegations against the person of the judge.
“From the response of the judge, the client of Abubakar Malami, Nura Baffa, swore to an affidavit in support of the allegation that the trial judge had interest in the proceeds of the fertilizer. Whereas from the documents submitted by the judge due process of law was followed by the court in executing the court orders on the sale of the said fertilizer”
Further correspondences sent by Malami to the then CJN, Justice Kutigi, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, and to Ademola, revealed the minister’s remorse about the development.
Malami wrote the letter to the LPPC, upon realising the potential damage the remarks of the NJC on his conduct could cause his bid to become a SAN.
In a letter dated June 21, 2008, addressed to Ademola, who had then been transferred from Kano Division of the Federal High Court to the Calabar Division, Malami expressed appreciation to the judge for his forgiveness.
When contacted by our correspondent on Saturday, the minister’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said he had no comment to make on the past correspondences between his boss and Justice Ademola as well as other institutions.
But he said Ademola should be more concerned about defending himself over the allegations levelled against him.
Isah said, “I have no comment about the said letters because anybody can come up with any letter. I don’t even see the relevance of the said letters to the situation on ground.
“I think the judge should be more concerned about defending himself against the allegations levelled against him.”