The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, resigned yesterday as a result of high-level intrigues that were long planned but carried out on Sunday night, according to numerous people familiar with the power battle.
Contrary to common opinion, Muhammad was actually compelled to quit by a high-level team of security and top government officials, according to trustworthy sources.
As a result of Muhammad’s resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari named Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who is ranked second on the Supreme Court, as acting CJN on Monday.
How the ex-CJN was compelled to resign
The ex-absence CJN’s from the inaugural program of the training on alternative conflict resolution for judges at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja on Monday morning was a sign that something was not right.
Without warning, Muhammad skipped the event and did not send a representative.
His assistants claimed that until that morning, they were unaware of any resignation.
Nevertheless, according to other accounts, he was told to show up to the Villa where he was given a document to sign for his resignation.
According to information obtained by Daily Trust, the effort to remove Muhammad from his seat was long-planned and was led by the head of a security agency and a senior cabinet member. Senior members of the National Judicial Council (NJC) were also included in the scheme.
According to a source at the NJC, the strategy was conceived in the latter part of last year but was delayed until Justice Mary Odili retired. Had Muhammad resigned before she departed, she may have only been the CJN for less than a year.
According to reports, the plan depended on the former CJN’s failing health.
Under the condition of anonymity, a leading Nigerian lawyer said the ex-CJN was obliged to retire due to “some issues of financial impropriety” and the letter that 14 Supreme Court judges wrote collectively against him.
He claimed that although several judicial stakeholders have known for some time that the ex-CJN is ill, he was allowed to stay onto his position until December 2023, when he was scheduled to retire.
He said that the majority of the correspondences, which begin with “I have been directed,” were written by his supporting staff, which made the severity of his situation very clear.
Finished overnight removal
A second, unnamed source close to the former CJN claimed that Muhammad was taken from his home on Sunday night to an unspecified location.
“When he arrived, a letter of resignation was handed to him, and they insisted that he sign it. He complied with them based on the information that it was from the president. He said that he was forbidden from consulting anyone, not even his family.
However, according to a second Supreme Court source, Muhammad has had significant health issues that make it challenging for him to carry out daily tasks including hearing cases and managing papers.
He claimed that the predicament was partially to blame for the court issue that gave rise to the recent letter that the 14 judges disclosed.
The source stated, “During the previous Ramadan, the president invited members of the Judiciary to the Villa for breaking of fast, but he (Muhammad) booked a visit to Kaduna State at the same time, and when he was reminded, he claimed he was unaware despite having been previously informed.
Justice Muhammad was required to respond to a recent letter on June 21 from 14 other Supreme Court justices accusing him of not running the supreme court correctly.
They wrote, “Your Lordship with all due respect, this is the height of decadence and unequivocal evidence of the absence of probity and moral rectitude; it is the degeneration of the court.”
“Your Lordship, this conduct alone portends imminent threat to the survival of this court and the judiciary as an institution, which is slowly eroding to extinction,” the judge said.
The previous CJN’s spokesperson, Ahuruaka Isah, responded to the news by stating that he was not made aware of the difficulties in his capacity as spokeswoman.
He did, however, clarify that, before to the unexpected development, the ex-CJN was regularly scheduled to attend the NJI event on Monday.
Justice Muhammad was promoted to the Supreme Court in 2006, but he didn’t take the oath of office until 7 January 2007, from which he was appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 25, 2019, after Justice Walter Onnoghen was dismissed over claims of making a false asset declaration.
Born on December 31, 1953, in the Doguwa-Giade Local Government Area of Bauchi State, he attended the Government Secondary School in Azare and graduated in 1980 with an LL. B in Islamic law. In 1973, he earned the West Africa School Certificate. In 1985 and 1998, respectively, he earned an LL.M and a PhD in law from the same university.
As acting CJN, Justice Ariwoola is sworn in.
Justice Ariwoola, the acting CJN, was sworn in on Monday about 3 o’clock, and President Buhari has congratulated him.
The Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger was also awarded to the departing CJN by the president (GCON).
Until the president sends Justice Ariwoola’s name to the Senate for approval as the substantive CJN, he will serve as acting CJN.
Some Supreme Court justices attended the ceremony with the acting CJN.
In the tenure of this administration, Ariwoola is now the third person to hold the position of chief justice of the nation.
President Buhari stated during his speech that he did so in accordance with Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) since nature abhorred a void following Justice Tanko’s resignation due to health reasons. Ariwoola will now serve as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He said the judges must not do anything to let the people down as Nigeria prepares for a crucial general election in 2023.
The president also reminded the Supreme Court’s judges of their duty to uphold Nigeria with loyalty and to uphold their commitment to the pledge of allegiance they all took.
“To ensuring the independence of the judiciary and will not do anything nor take any steps to compromise your independence,” Buhari pledged, his administration’s commitment.
The president praised Justice Tanko for his services to the nation’s prosperity, democracy, and judiciary in Nigeria.
Normally, he was slated to leave the Supreme Court by the end of 2023, he added. Unfortunately, as no man is infallible, Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian judiciary at this time has been curtailed by bad health.
“Although I do it with mixed emotions, I am forced to accept his retirement. As much as one may hope for Nigeria’s Chief Justice Muhammed Tanko to be able to finish out his tenure in office, this assumes that he is able to carry out his duties without interference, hindrance, or any other sort of impairment.
Under the direction of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad, the judiciary in that country wisely used its judicial authority. His time period saw the Supreme Court, and indirectly other constitutionally formed courts, make a number of important jurisprudential and policy rulings.
The issue of the careless and indiscriminate granting of ex-parte orders, which was taking on severe dimensions, was dealt with forcefully by CJN Tanko, the speaker stated.
New CJN: “I won’t let Nigeria down”
With the help of his colleagues, Ariwoola has pledged that the judiciary he leads won’t let Nigerians down.
He stated: “What Nigerians demand from me is to comply with, preserve, and abide by and protect the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution. And that’s okay. That is what I shall do, especially with my fellow Supreme Court judges’ assistance. We won’t let Nigerians down.
The acting CJN stated that there is no controversy at the Supreme Court when asked how he would respond to it. With the Chief Justice, we are one. That is why the president stated that His Lordship was disengaging due to ill health. No disagreements here; we are one.
When questioned about the concerns for the former CJN’s welfare that were raised in the letter, he responded, “It was an internal note of the court. The request was not one. Not a letter, that was. The Chief Justice’s brother Justices addressed it to His Lordship and gave it to him in person. Justices needed to settle some disagreements.
When questioned about whether those problems will be remedied under his direction, he responded, “Yeah, we have started tackling it.”
Short on new CJN
After joining the Oyo State High Court on November 2, 1992, Justice Ariwoola joined the Court of Appeal on November 22, 2005, and served there until his appointment to the Supreme Court bench on November 22, 2011.
Born on August 22, 1958, Ariwoola attended Oluwole Local Authority Demonstration School in Iseyin Local Government from 1959 to 1967. He is a member of the Ariwoola family from Iseyin, Oyo State. He went to Ansar-Ud-Deen Secondary School in Shaki and Muslim Modern School in Iseyin (1968–1969), after which he transferred to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile–Ife, where he earned his honors degree in 1980. After attending the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, he was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1981.
Acting CJN: “We’ll help clean up the Augean stable.”
The interim CJN Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and the judiciary have vowed support from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as they work to purge the Augean Stable and solve the problems that have plagued not only the court but also the whole legal profession.
The acting CJN’s first objective, according to a statement released on Monday and signed by NBA President Olumide Akpata, was to regain the public’s trust in the judicial system.
More than ever, he argued, the court needs urgent reforms in order to restore the nearly lost trust that Nigerians once had in it and the country’s larger legal system.
He wished CJN Muhammad a speedy recovery from his illness.