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The Supreme Court’s dirty linen

By Kene Obiezu
28 June 2022   |   8:09 pm
A storm appears to have been stirred at Nigeria`s Supreme Court over an unprecedented letter written by 14 Justices of the Court to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola. Photo/FACEBOOK/MuhammaduBuhari

SIR: A storm appears to have been stirred at Nigeria`s Supreme Court over an unprecedented letter written by 14 Justices of the Court to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). In the letter which was signed by about 14 of the Justices, led by  Kayode Ariwoola, now the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, sundry issues were raised which  have had the effect of startling Nigerians.  The Justices pointed out that they had privately raised the issues with the CJN since March 24, 2022 but nothing was done about them.

According to them, some justices sworn in to the court since two years ago were yet to receive their due residential accommodations from the court. Vehicles supplied the Justices were said to be refurbished or substandard. The justices also made a most damning accusation that the CJN prevented them from going for overseas training with their assistants while the CJN frequently took in foreign trips with his spouse, children and personal staff.
 
If indeed these issues became weighty enough to wriggle into the public space in a court where discretion is everything, then, the implications are frightening. The CJN, Mr. Ibrahim Tanko, has since replied but not without softly upbraiding his brother justices for actions he compared to dancing naked in the market square.

In the reply which generally addressed the issue, citing them within the larger context of the prevailing economic situation in the country at the moment, the CJN was at pains to stress that there was no bad blood between the Justices as the issues were being addressed.

For many Nigerians who for long have suspected that all was not well at the Supreme Court, the letter and the reply was little more than an attempt to launder dirty linens in the public. If the Nigerian judiciary has been recently and sarcastically described as the ‘‘lost hope of the common man,’’ it is by those who no longer feel any confidence in the actions of the judiciary and judicial officers in the country.

The task of the judiciary in a country where the rot is a systemic one is not exactly an enviable one as there are many who have no doubt that members of the judiciary are in bed with those who have been taking Nigeria down the road of self-destruction. For many other Nigerians, the travails of the Justices who have been treated to generous shades of karma, is simply a case of the chickens come home to roost.

In 2019,it appeared that amid what was a poorly disguised attempt to force out the then CJN, Mr. Walter Onnoghen, from office, many of the Justices of the Supreme Court chose the convenience of silence that was interpreted as complicity at the time  by those who were determined to subvert due process.
 
Indeed, when the succeeding CJN hurriedly made himself available to be sworn in, the script was thought to have been fully acted out. So, the question many ask and continue to ask is whether the Justices were expecting better administration from a leadership that was the product of a process rigged with impunity from the onset.
 
If Nigeria is all over the place today, it is largely because many of those who occupy public offices choose dereliction over diligence in the discharge of their public duties. They have largely complicated the Nigerian problem leading to a gradual but deleterious disintegration of the national life as Nigerians knew it.
Kene Obiezu,keneobiezu@gmail.com