- Protesters demand resignation
The recent political statements by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, have continued to attract mixed reactions with some analysts describing them as partisan.
The CJN had said he was happy that his state governor, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, was among the G-5 governors, also known as the Integrity Group, which is calling for the removal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
Ariwoola spoke last week at the commissioning of two buildings to accommodate the Federal Judicial Service Commissioner’s South-South Liaison Office and the Justice Mary Peter-Odili Judicial Institute in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Also, at the investiture of 62 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Monday, the CJN decried the security situation in the country, saying “The times we are in are perilous. All hands must be on deck to make the best out of the unpleasant situation.”
Reacting to the statement on the Oyo State governor, Phrank Shuaibu, a media aide to the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, said Justice Ariwoola’s descent into political commentaries portends grave danger for the country’s judiciary.
Shuaibu, in a statement, noted that the CJN had warned judges to remain neutral and impartial during this political season. He also warned politicians against trying to induce judges.
Also, the spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Management Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, said the CJN, by his pronouncement “has desecrated the dignity of the judiciary, demonstrated partiality, eroded public confidence, exposed the judiciary to political attacks and acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the character, colour, and calling of his exalted office.”
Professor Kamilu Sani Fage of Bayero University Kano (BUK) said the position of a CJN is a very complex situation because a judge or the judiciary itself is supposed to be non-political and expected to be silent on issues that will mar its independent.
“Be that as it may, the issue especially the situation of the country is true because there is no time in history that the country was faced with so many security issues at the same time.
“But he shouldn’t have come out and talk about it openly because of his position.
“It is quite uncommon because the previous chief justices we had, you never hear them talk in public and now that he has come out, I think he is opening himself up for attack and negative comments. So, he is not supposed to come out and say these things,” he said.
Similarly, a professor of media studies, Farooq Kperogi, accused the CJN of “unabashed political partisanship” following his comments.
However, the Director of Information of the Supreme Court, Dr Festus Akande, has denied any political affiliation or intention by the CJN through his comments.
“Let it be noted that anything said, assumed, presumed, reported, or placed in the public domain outside the above facts, is simply a mere figment of the imagination of such authors and doesn’t in any way represent what the CJN said in Port Harcourt, as we are not ready to join issues with such purveyors of misinformation,” he said.
Meanwhile, protesters demanding the resignation of the CJN were teargassed by the police on Tuesday at the Unity Fountain and the Federal Ministry of Justice where they sought to submit a petition to that effect.
The protesters, under the aegis of the Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria (CCSN), said the alleged political posture by the CJN portends a great danger to the smooth dispensation of justice in case of electoral dispute before, during, and after the 2023 general elections.
Addressing journalists and the protesters just before the police swooped on them, the spokesperson of the coalition, Comrade Olayinka Dada, called on the CJN to resign his appointment in the interest of democracy in the country.
By John C. Azu, Baba Martins (Abuja) & Clement A. Oloyede (Kano)