Controversial hajj slot: Judge shuns delegation’s meetings

  • Friday, November 14, 2008 - Thenationonlineng.com
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Following controversy over his nomination, a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, has stayed away from two meetings of the Federal Government delegation to this year’s Hajj to Saudi Arabia .

Investigations by The Nation revealed that Musdapher was absent at crucial meetings of the members of the delegation with Amirul Hajj, Speaker Dimeji Bankole.

Findings revealed that the meetings were held on Tuesday and Thursday at the Office of the Speaker at the National Assembly Complex.

A member of the delegation said: "The judge has not been attending our meetings and he did not send any notice to us that he won’t come. We are worried that he is still contemplating whether to be part of the delegation or not.

"Some members have a strong feeling that since Musdapher is highly principled, he might withdraw from the Federal Government delegation.

"The judge does not want anything to soil his hard-earned reputation. If we meet next week and he does not come again, we will be able to reach a conclusion.

"We will then ask the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi, to nominate another representative of the judiciary for the slot."

A source at the Supreme Court said although the apex court had defended the choice of Musdapher, the judge is "not keen to be part of the delegation."

"The judge has been under pressure from friends and associates not to allow politicians to drag his name into the mud.

"Before you know it, the Presidential Election Appeal will be politicised and that will not be good for the image of the respected Supreme Court."

It was also learnt that some aggrieved politicians had been monitoring the attendance of the judge at the meeting with a view to laying their hands on minutes of the meetings.

"I think those aggrieved are looking for concrete evidence, apart from the announcement of Musdapher's nomination, to file an action in a court.

"The Hajj delegation is assuming a political colouration. This is the first time we are experiencing such," a highly-placed source said.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday faulted allegation by the Presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, that the inclusion of Musdapher on Amirul Hajj delegation is unethical.

But the presidential candidate insisted that Justice Musdapher must withdraw from the Presidential Election Appeal panel and his hearing his petition against Yar’ Adua if he is adamant in accepting his nomination as a member of Hajj delegation.

The Buhari Campaign Organisation had raised the alarm on Saturday that since Justice Musdapher is one of the judges hearing Presidential Election Appeal against Yar’Adua at the Supreme Court, it was unethical for him to serve as a member of the government delegation to Hajj.

The Supreme Court, in a statement by its Chief Registrar, Alhaji Usman Musale, however, said Musdapher was not nominated by the President.

The statement reads: "Our attention has been drawn to the recent publication against the nomination of Justice Dahiru Musdapher, CON, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to serve on the Federal Government’s delegation to this year’s Hajj.

"Let it be known that the nomination of Hon. Justice Musdapher was not done by Mr. President.

"As is usual, the government sent the slot of the judiciary to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria , who in his wisdom gave the slot to Hon. Justice Musdapher, being the most senior among the Muslim justices.

"Let it be further known that this is not the first time that the judiciary is nominated to the Federal delegation to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of purely religious matter."

On his part, the Secretary of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Engr. Buba Galadima, said the group is insisting that Justice Musdapher should withdraw from the panel handling its petition against Yar’Adua if he is going to be part of the Hajj delegation.

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