By Uche Amunike
President Muhammadu Buhari has sworn in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, during a swearing in ceremony held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Monday.
Ariwoola, 62, succeeds Justice Tanko Muhammad, whose resignation was announced, Monday morning on health grounds, barely a week after 14 Supreme Court Justices in a joint petition, levelled serious allegations of maladministration and financial impropriety against him.
Upon his resignation, President Buhari, noted that he received the resignation letter with mixed feelings and went ahead, shortly after, to confer him with the national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON).
Meanwhile, prior to the resignation of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, some branches of the Nigerian Bar Association, civil right groups and lawyers, unanimously called for his probe, saying that the allegations against him should not be swept under the carpet.
They were of the opinion that what the Ex-CJN deserved was not a national honour, but a probe in relation to the petitions levelled against him before his resignation.
The first female chairman of the NBA, Makurdi Branch, Maimuna Ikwulono told pressmen, during an interview that it was expedient for the allegations against the retired CJN to be investigated in order to help administration of justice, while stressing that the impropriety and administrative inefficiency levelled against him should not be swept under the carpet.
Her words: ‘Nobody can say that those issues raised be swept under the carpet because we are looking for a solution. Certain things are being done that are hampering the justice administration process, that is affecting judicial responsibilities.’
‘It is incumbent on the relevant authorities to look into it to stop the wrong to have smoother administration of justice. It is not out of place to look into it,’ she said.
On her part, a former Secretary of the NBA, Asaba Branch, AF Bridebra, during an interview with pressmen, equally endorsed the demand of the association for an investigation of the supreme court under the former CJN.
She submitted: ‘If there is any place we need transparency, it is the judiciary. The man (Muhammad) should be probed.’
‘The man was rumoured to have been involved in corrupt activities, so he should be probed. Not only him but it should be extended to all Supreme Court judges and NBA.’
‘The judiciary, as far as I’m concerned, is dying. Every state judge needs to be investigated; this is the beginning of the End-SARS revolution in the judiciary’, she concluded.
As for the Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law, Dr Monday Ubani, who spoke during an interview with Life and Times, his opinion was clear on the matter.
Hear him: ‘Resignation does not stop investigation, if they so desire. One is that there must be the desire to look at the allegations raised by his colleagues, especially on issues of mismanagement of resources.’
‘The Acting Chief Justice was one of those who supported the petition, so he should look into it and have unbiased personnel to unravel it. We shouldn’t sweep it under the carpet but investigate it. Yes, he resigned on health grounds, but it doesn’t stop probing into the finances of his administration if there is an extreme need for it.’
‘As for the conferment of a national honour on him, it could be withdrawn if it was indicted by a probe’, he concluded.
The position of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria is that the former CJN should be probed in order to set the records straight.
The new CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola will continue to work in an acting capacity, pending when President Buhari will forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Being the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola was sworn in by President Buhari, to replace his predecessor who resigned on health grounds.