Politics

Not yet Uhuru as Senate insists on probe of Tanko Muhammad, former CJN

Activist urges politicians to learn lessons from CJN’s resignation
Written by Maritime First

…Buhari expresses mixed feelings, Swears in Ariwoola***

…As Atiku applauds Justice Tanko Muhammad, congratulates new acting CJN***

The Senate on Tuesday insisted that it would go ahead with the probe of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Tanko Muhammad.

This was a sequel to a motion on the Matter of Urgent Public Importance moved by Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti).

Also read: CJN Resigns on Health Grounds

The motion was tagged: “State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Demand by Justices of the Court.”

The newsmen report that the Senate had on June 22, mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, too, as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis rocking the judiciary.

Following prayers of the motion, the senate resolved to mandate the committee to go ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a lasting solution to the matter by interacting with relevant stakeholders.

This is with a view to addressing the complaints raised in the petition by the Justices of the Supreme Court.

The upper chamber also mandated the committee to interface with the relevant stakeholders in the three arms of government as well as at the Bar and the Bench.

Earlier, Bamidele, while moving the motion pursuant to Rules 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Orders, noted that the poor welfare of judicial officers would affect the delivery of the judiciary in respect of their output and would prevent them not to performing optimally.

“The sacred image of the judiciary, which is the epicenter of the temple of justice should be preserved by the Senate through appropriate legislative measures in order to safeguard this highly revered institution and prevent it from being ridiculed,” he said.

The lawmaker who regretted the former CJN’s resignation said that “this development will not prevent the committee from going ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a probable lasting solution to the matter.

“Even though Muhammad has stepped down as CJN, most of the issues raised by the Justices of the Supreme Court and other stakeholders within the judiciary still remain and need to be addressed urgently to prevent an eventual shut-down of the Judiciary.”

Supporting the motion, Deputy Chief Whip, Sen. Sabi Abdullahi, said that “this motion will show clearly that the Senate is not unaware of the role it is supposed to play.

In the meantime, President Muhammadu Buhari says he is constrained to accept the resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammad Tanko on health grounds

The president stated this while swearing in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in the State House, Abuja, on Monday.

Buhari said: “​Ordinarily, he (Tanko) was scheduled to retire from the Supreme Court on the last day of 2023.

“Unfortunately, as no man is infallible, ill-health has cut short Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian Judiciary at this time.

“​I am therefore constrained to accept his retirement, albeit with mixed feelings.

Much as one may wish that the Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammed Tanko is able to fully serve his term in office, it presupposes that he is able to perform the functions of the Office without let, hindrance, or any form of disability.

 

“The instant resignation of Justice Tanko is however envisaged under Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which contains provisions relating to vacancy and the occupant of the Office of Chief Justice of Nigeria being unable to perform the functions of the Office for any reason.’’

According to the president, under a constitutional democracy like ours, government powers and responsibilities are clearly allocated and shared among the three tiers; the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

He stated that the three organs must work harmoniously and optimally in accordance with their respective Constitutional mandates.

He noted that ​Nigeria’s Judiciary under the leadership of Tanko judiciously exercised the Judicial powers of the Federation.

The president added that Tanko’s era witnessed several landmarks, jurisprudential and policy decisions by the Supreme Court, and by extension other Courts established by the Constitution.

“CJN Tanko dealt firmly with the issue of reckless and indiscriminate grant of ex-parte Orders that was assuming serious dimensions.

“​History will be kind to Justice Tanko Muhammed for his modest contributions to Nigeria’s Judiciary, the strengthening of our democracy and national development,’’ he said.

​The president used the opportunity to call on the Judiciary not to do anything to fail the ordinary people of Nigeria which may make them lose confidence in the justice system in the country.

He also enjoined the Justices of the Supreme Court to always remain faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to remain steadfastly committed to the Oath of Allegiance which they all subscribed to, as contained in the 7th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“​Our Nation is approaching a critical general election in 2023, the Judiciary must not do anything to fail the ordinary people of Nigeria which may make them lose confidence in the Judiciary,’’ he said.

Buhari reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensuring “the independence of the Judiciary and will not do anything nor take any steps to undermine your independence.

“We shall uphold the Constitutional provisions on the Rule of Law and the principles of Separation of Powers.’’

The newsmen report that the president honoured Tanko with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON).

“In line with the custom of decorating Chief Justices of Nigeria with the second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON), and upon the advice of the Council of State in that regard, as his Lordship CJN I.

Tanko Muhammed is taking a bow from the Supreme Court, I hereby bestow on him the National Honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON).

“In the circumstances, and as nature abhors a vacuum, I hereby invite Honourable Olukayode Ariwoola JSC, being the next most Senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to come forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an Acting Capacity, pursuant to Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),’’ he said.

Ariwoola, who later spoke to State House correspondents, said he would uphold the constitution of the country while discharging his duties.

He said: “What Nigerians should expect from me is to comply with, preserve, abide by and protect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – that is what I will do essentially with the cooperation of my brother Justices of the Supreme Court.

“We shall not fail Nigerians.”

He dismissed as false the purported controversy surrounding the Supreme Court occasioned by petitions reportedly written against the immediate pass CJN (Tanko), saying “there is no controversy whatsoever’’.

He, however, added that what transpired shortly before the change of guard at the apex court was an internal memo of the Supreme Court, written directly to Tanko.

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According to him, the matter is already being resolved.

“There is no controversy in the Supreme Court, we are one with the Chief Justice and that is why you heard the President said his Lordship (Justice Ibrahim Tanko) is disengaging on the grounds of ill health.

“It was an internal memo of the court; it was not a petition, it was not a letter.

It was addressed by the brother-Justices of the Supreme Court and presented to his Lordship directly.

“They were issues to be resolved among Justices and we have started resolving them,” He said.

14 Justices of the Supreme Court had on June 20 written a protest letter to the then CJN, Justice Tanko, lamenting the difficulties they were facing in carrying out their duties.

In the meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar says the decision of Justice Tanko Muhammad to vacate office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria is commendable.

Abubakar in a statement by his Media Office in Abuja also congratulated the newly sworn-in acting CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariowoola.

“I wish him well even as I commend him for his action and service to the nation.

“I wish the newly sworn-in acting CJN Justice Ariowoola success as he steps in to fill the gap.

“I assure him of my commitment to advancing the frontiers of judicial independence and the promotion of separation of powers as the bedrock of deepening democracy and development,” when elected, he said.

“Of course, in playing that role, we also respect the separation of powers.

Our concern is that the judiciary as an arm of government deserves all the support it needs been the last hope as far as the rule of law is concerned.”

Similarly, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege said, “I am very embarrassed as a lawyer and also someone from the judicial family.

“Seeing that petition on the social media and eventually on the mainstream media, I was taken aback because it has never happened, it is unprecedented.

“There is no reason why the judiciary should lack anything financially.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said that “I can see most of the emphasis is on funding.

“When we look into the issues, they go beyond funding.

“We should look at other areas whether there is a need to improve on the structures or having issues that may not be about funding but funding is, of course, a major issue,” Lawan said.

Newsmen report that recently, 14 Justices of the Supreme Court leveled allegations of corruption against the former CJN, Muhammad.

The Justices, in a memo, protested the non-payment of legitimate entitlements by the former CJN among others.

Newsmen also report that the former CJN, Muhammad, had on Monday, June 27, resigned from his position, reportedly on health grounds.

 

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