On Tuesday, June 27 this year a new acting Chief Justice was sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
He succeeded Justice Tanko Muhammed who voluntarily retired from office on health grounds following a petition by his fellow Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN). In the petition the Justices complained of inadequate logistic support to discharge their statutory responsibilities.
New Telegraph commends the former CJN Mr Muhammed for voluntarily throwing in the towel. Voluntary resignation of juicy positions by their occupants is not a norm in the country. Individuals do everything humanly possible to keep their positions.
But the petition by all the SCN Justices against the immediate past CJN is unprecedented in the nation’s judicial industry. The petition spoke and still speaks volumes of the cracks in the country’s judiciary. Why must the Justices of the Supreme Court be made to lack the relevant logistics with which to excel in their statutory responsibilities? The adjudications of the Justices have a far-reaching impact on the country.
Acknowledged that an exiting CJN is decorated with the highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), but in the face of the petition, the decoration ought to have been put on hold to pave way for an accelerated investigation into the petition against the immediate past CJN. We therefore enjoin the National Judicial Council (NJC) not to sweep the petition under the carpet. It should be thoroughly investigated with the report produced to help the acting CJN, Mr Justice Ariwoola.
He should not preside over the body with regard to the conduct of enquiry into the grievances of the Justices of the Supreme Court. This is simply because one would be the judge in his own matter as Mr Justice Ariwoola is reported to be one of the signatories to the petition.
New Telegraph feels that the SCN needs some urgent strengthening in other areas. The apex court is over burdened with some cases dragging on for many years before justice is eventually served. Conscious efforts should be made to make some cases terminate at the Court of Appeal.
The concept of merit should be diligently in the search and recruitment of justices of the apex court. It is retrogressive to insist that Justices of the Court of Appeal should transit to the SCN. There is nothing wrong in going to the state and federal high courts to get brilliant judges to be appointed to the apex court. We recall with pleasure that some of the nation’s most outstanding jurists were appointed to the Supreme Court bench from the different State High Courts.
Mention must be made of Justices Chukwudifu Oputa and Anthony Aniagolu, who came from the posts of Chief Judges of old Imo and Anambra states respectively. Justices Oputa, Aniagolu, Kayode Esho and Adolphous Karibi-Whyte were among the erudite jurist’s that helped bequeath to Nigeria the golden era of its judiciary.
New Telegraph enjoins the new acting CJN to collaborate with his brother justices of the Supreme Court to find a solution to the disturbing image of the apex court as an entity where political gladiators could harvest electoral capital after losing elections or failing to participate in polls.
We recall that Supreme Court rulings have been responsible in switching three governorship election victories to other persons. The beauty of democracy is underscored by the fact that power belongs to the people, who must be allowed at all times to elect fit and proper persons who should rule over them.
The Supreme Court should appreciate and strive to uphold this referred democratic tenet. We are aware that some attorneys contribute to the delay in the dispensation of justice through the filing of frivolous petitions. Some have even worsened matters for the judiciary by obtaining conflicting orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction in different parts of the country.
It is imperative to review some of the powers conceded to the occupant of the position of CJN, Every occupant of the exalted seat of the CJN, whether in an acting or substantive capacity, is not only Chairman of the NJC but also chairs other vital bodies in the legal system such as Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).
The CJN may be over burdened by these overwhelming responsibilities or the exercise of powers associated with his or her roles as a presiding officer in the referred entities could make him or her dictatorial.
For this reason, we push for a review of all the powers and responsibilities accorded the office of the CJN with a view to making them more manageable.