The details of the public row between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, and the Supreme Court Justices point to a long brewing feud, which the highest judges have been unable to resolve. solve, can report Daily Trust.
The Supreme Court justices had, in a recent letter to the CJN, disclosed to the public, accused the country’s head of the judiciary of “lack of probity and moral rectitude” in the management of the court.
The judges accused the CJN of neglecting their well-being, of not accompanying them in the management of court affairs, of the deterioration of the state of the services in general and of the state of the litigation department.
But in his response on Tuesday, through a statement signed by his spokesman, Isah Ahuraka, Judge Muhammad denied the allegations and ordered to bring the issues to the public.
Your tenure culminates in decadence – Justices
In their widely circulated letter, the 14 aggrieved judges listed their names as Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Dattijo Mohammed, Kudirat Motonmori O. Kekere-Ekun, John Inyang Okoro, Chima Centus Nweze, Amina Adamu Augie, Uwani Musa Abba-Aji, Mohammed Lawal Garba, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, Abdu Aboki, Ibrahim Mohammed Musa Salawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim.
In the letter titled “The State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria by the Justices of the Court”, the judges called on the CJN to act before it is too late on their challenges regarding the accommodation of the judges , vehicles, electricity rate, supply of diesel, internet services to our residences and rooms, and court epileptic electricity supply.
“Your Lordship, with all due respect, this is the peak of the court’s degeneration; it is the height of decadence and a clear proof of the absence of probity and moral rectitude,” they wrote.
“Your Lordship, this act alone portends an imminent danger to the survival of this court and of the judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting towards extinction.”
You dance naked in the market – CJN Muhammad
In response, the CJN said, “Judges of all climates should be seen and not heard, and that explains why the CJN refrained from enclosing the questions until a letter, said to be personal, spread. throughout society. It was like dancing naked in the marketplace by us with the ripple effect of said letter”.
Justice Muhammad, who will retire on December 31, 2023, after reaching the mandatory age of 70, said that despite the court’s financial difficulties, his administration has made efforts to recruit legal assistants for judges and d other logistical support they are entitled to.
“Two weeks ago, eight Supreme Court justices were nominated for a workshop in London because the court cannot take them all there at the same time or the work would suffer. They would leave in batches.
“Housing is gradually being provided for the few people who have not yet obtained. There are no supreme judges without SUVs and spare cars. If any of them were bought but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in court to sue those who bought them.
“The high cost of electricity and diesel tariff is a national problem. The Chief Registrar may have budgeted N300 per liter but diesel now sells for over N700 per liter so must find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there’s no way the generator will be turned off if the court is sitting.
Lack of accessibility, denial of logistics manager – Sources
On Tuesday, sources told the Daily Trust that there had always been fears that a crisis, which had long been brewing between the CJN and its colleagues, could escalate into the open.
A senior Supreme Court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been ongoing issues with Justice Muhammad’s modus operandi since he took over as acting CJN on February 25, 2019, following the dismissal of Walter Onnoghen. But things got worse in 2020 when he reportedly defied calls to call the judges’ regular meetings and started making himself inaccessible to his colleagues.
As noted in the judges’ complaint letter, the CJN refused to officially introduce the six new judges of the court appointed on November 6, 2020, as is traditionally done until it was forced to hold the meeting in March of This year.
The source also recounted how the judges were irritated with the court’s financial management, with most of their logistical needs either reduced or stopped despite the budget allocation to the judiciary being increased from N100 billion in 2017 to N120 billion in 2021.
“The fact that the CJN, who was not supposed to be the accountant, would be involved in procurement functions that should be the responsibility of the chief clerk was unimaginable to most judges,” the source said.
The source said this has forced many judges to start murmuring and complaining to their senior retired colleagues, including an emir serving in one of the north-central states, who in turn has sometimes went to court to try to settle the dispute to no avail.
Concerned about the breakdown in communications within the Supreme Court about the fate of justices, immediate past CJN Onnoghen warned on June 16 that the Supreme Court could become a glorified high court if it is not adequately funded.
Onnoghen, who spoke in Abuja, at the public presentation of a law book on construction law, lamented that some Supreme Court Justices are still living in rented accommodation in unsuitable areas of the FCT, adding that their salaries and allowances have not been reviewed since 2008.
Another insider who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity said the last straw that broke the camel’s back, which forced the judges to go public, was the participation and victory of the two sons of the CJN to elective office, as Senate and House of Representatives. candidates of the PDP and the APC respectively in Bauchi State, which the judges considered as likely to compromise the integrity of the court.
The CJN spokesperson could not respond to requests for comment on the sources’ claims because his phone was switched off.
In addition, the Chief Information Officer of the Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande, said he was not authorized to comment on the allegations regarding the events in court.
It’s unhealthy for public trust in the judiciary – Analysts
Meanwhile, analysts have described the situation as shameful and capable of eroding public trust.
Murtala Abdulrasheed (SAN) described the development as shameful and unprecedented in the justice system.
The executive director of the Center for Civil Society Legislative Advocacy (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, said the notion of corruption in the judiciary is one of the reasons why members of the public no longer have confidence in the courts. .
“If you don’t have money, psychologically you think you won’t get justice and a fair trial if you go to court,” he said.
“When you hear about issues of lack of accountability in the justice system, it’s a clear signal that all is not well.”
Along the same lines, the Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice (SCJ), Eze Onyekpere Esq. said the judges’ letter against the CJN is nothing new to observers like him because “justice is not immune to the cancer of corruption in the country.”