Revolt Of Four Supreme Court Justices And Emergence Of Justice Ariwola As Acting CJN

By Suleiman Umaru

For much of this year there been rumours making the rounds of a sour relationship between Justice Tanko Mohammed, the Bauchi state born Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, who took over from Justice Walter Onnoghen   in January 2019 and some Supreme Court Justices.

 Recall that Justice Onnoghen, the Cross riverian was forced out of office over alleged ‘’false assets declaration and failure to include  some domiciliary  accounts  managed  by the Standard  Charterd Bank’’.

The trouble in the apex Court became pronounced when four aggrieved Justices who could no longer stomach what is happening in the Court took the bull by the horn to write the CJN a letter, which was supposed to be confidential but leaked out.

They may have taken advantage of the letter to the CJN, to    lamented about ‘’the decrepit state of Affairs in the apex Court under his Leadership and his refusal ‘’to address the issues raised despite drawing his attention to them.

The aggrieved Justices were said to have registered their anger over lack of residential accommodation and vehicles at the Court.  They may have opened up on what actually triggered their revolt against the CJN to the fact that he was ‘’gallivanting with his spouse, children and personal staff’’ but would never allow any other Justice of the Supreme Court to travel with a personal Assistant on foreign trips’’. They were said to have also complained about ‘’the lack of legal research Assistants, despite the magnitude of cases being handled at the apex Court.

The frosty relationship between the CJN and the four Supreme Court Justices became more pronounced due to the alleged erratic power supply at the Court necessitated by high cost of diesel to power the Court generators, thus forcing the Justices to work between the hours of and 4p.m. daily.

Supreme Court Of Nigeria

 But Justice Mohammed would not take it. He had said that the budgetary allocation to buy diesel to power the Court generators was N300.00 per litre but suddenly jumped to over N700.00 per litre. The Court Accountant may not have brought the issue to  attention of the  former CJN to find a way out  but was said to be trying to solve the problem his own way , thus playing into the  hands of the aggrieved Justices.

. He was to have ensured that the Court generators hum on a daily basis without putting it off if the Court is sitting.  Justice Mohammed may have created the impression that ‘’there was no hostility or adverse feelings among the Justices of the Supreme Court, as everyone was going about their normal duties.

Many knew that the crisis in the apex Court may have taken a turn for the worse when the former CJN failed to show up at the training programme   organised by the National Judicial Institute, NJI, for Judges amidst reports that he has thrown in the towel.

The former CJN, according to close Associates on Sunday, June 26, 2022 thad resigned  due to failing healt to carry out hi official duties.  He was said to have resigned barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, in Kigali, Capital of Rwanda, fueling speculations that he may have informed Buhari before dropping his letter of resignation.  

Until his resignation, the former CJN, had made a Landmark Judgment in the suit filed by the Katsina state born Nigerian President and Malam  Abubakar Malami, minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation ‘’ to void section  84, sub section 12 of the Electoral Act 2022’.  The Apex Court under the close watch of Justice Mohammed, the erstwhile CJN, had ruled that the Court lacked the Jurisdictions to entertain the suit which he had said would have amounted to an abuse of the Judiciial process if it entertains it.

Justice Mohammed led Apex Court had said that that ‘’the Nigerian President was not the proper person to approach the Court with such a suit, owing to  the nature of reliefs  that were sought’’. It was not surprising why the Court struck out the suit which had contended that section 84 (12) of the 2022 Electoral Act was inconsistent with the provisions of sections 42, 65,66,106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177,182,192 and 196, of the  199 Constitution of the of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and Article 2 of the African Charter of Human Rights. The Presidency may not have found this funny.

Justice Ariwola: Acting CJN

There is no gain saying the fact that the resignation of Justice Mohammed, the immediate past CJN, paved the way for Justice Olukayode Ariwola, from Oyo state and   being the most senior Supreme Court Justice next to him   to step in as the country’s acting CJN. Buhari had on Monday, June 27, 2022, Administered  the Oath to the new acting CJN, during a swearing – in ceremony at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT amidst applause.

Justice Mohammed may have bowed out from the bench with his head still high as the Nigerian President had bestowed on him the nation’s second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.  In decorating him, he had said that ‘’history would be kind to the former CJN, for his contributions to Nigerian’s Judiciary, strengthening of the country’s democracy and national development’’.While taking the Judicial Oath the 62 year-old acting CJN, had  sworn ‘’to be  faithful  and bear true allegiance  to the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as defend  the 1999 Constitution as amended.’’.

 Olumide Akpata, President of the Nigerian Bar Association , NBA,  would want Justice Ariwola, the acting CJN,  to consider  as his first major task in  office ,  ‘’to reform  the nation’s Judiciary  and restore  public confidence  in the third arm of government’’ which past CJNs had failed to do.

The NBA president was said to have promised the acting CJN, of ‘’the readiness of the Bar to work together with him  in cleansing  the augen stable  and addressing the ills  that have continued  to plague  the Judiciary  and the entire legal profession over the years’’.    

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