As Ariwoola bows out – Daily Trust

As Ariwoola bows out – Daily Trust

In less than 10 days from now the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, will attain the mandatory retirement age of 70 when he will bow out of the highest judicial office in the country.

Born August 22, 1954, Ariwoola was appointed acting CJN on June 27, 2022, following the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad, and was confirmed CJN by the Nigerian Senate on September 21, 2022.

The CJN holds office at the pleasure of the Nigerian Constitution and can only be removed from office by death or on attainment of the 70 mandatory retirement age.

Major stakeholders in the judiciary, including some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), have called out the CJN over unanswered allegations against him. The allegations border on the state of the Nigerian judiciary under his leadership, as well as the increasing damage which the alleged misuse of authority and a general failure to undertake effective reform, are causing to the judiciary.

The stakeholders include Joseph Otteh, a former NBA Ikorodu branch chairman; Bayo Akinlade and a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof Chidi Odinkalu; while the CSOs are Access to Justice; Human and Constitutional Rights Committee; African Bar Association; Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary; FundELG Africa; Open Justice Alliance; Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and Sterling Law Centre.

The groups noted that, “The Judiciary remains unreconstructed and its public perception has not improved.”

The groups also noted that the allegations made by retiring Justice Dattijo Muhammed at his valedictory ceremony where he claimed that the CJN delayed appointing Supreme Court justices deliberately, while the Supreme Court was “suffocating under the pressure of acutely reduced bench numbers”, implied that the CJN was, for whatever motive, and even despite the overbearing docket of the court, instrumentalising the court’s numerical status quo and handicaps as a way to achieve some ulterior purposes.

The allegations, according to the CSOs, have had a profound negative impact on public perception of Nigeria’s judiciary domestically and internationally.

The group advised that, “Declaring a state of emergency in the judiciary would be a good start. Ensuring that judicial selection decisions are transparently and verifiably merit-based is a pressing need at this time.”

The Director of Information of the Supreme Court, Dr Festus Akande, when contacted on phone, said that the allegations were similar to earlier allegations levelled against the CJN, adding that the allegations were being studied so as to give the appropriate response to the issues at the appropriate time.

Meanwhile, the current justices of the Supreme Court in order of seniority are Olukayode Ariwoola, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, John Inyang Okoro, Uwani Musa Abba Aji, Lawal Garba, Helen Ogunwumiju, Ibrahim Musa Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar and Emmanuel Agim.

Pursuant to Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution, the president shall appoint the most senior justice of the Supreme Court as the CJN when the office is vacant.

Today, after the CJN, the most senior justice of the apex court is Justice Kekere-Ekun who is most likely to be the next CJN who will also help to shape the 2027 general elections. She will also be the second female CJN following Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar.

Bayo Akinlade, a former Ikorodu branch Chairman of NBA, in a telephone chat with Daily Trust, said, “There is a long time between now and 2027,” adding that by then there would have been a lot of reforms in the judiciary.

He further said, “I don’t think that the CJN’s position or the state of origin would have any influence in the 2027 general elections. Nigeria is developing and the people will continue to choose their leaders and the Supreme Court will not interfere with what the people decide. We had seen it before; they had taken political cases to the Supreme Court and it had been very very careful not to turn round the decision of the people; so to speak, except it was a very fundamental problem where rigging had been so obvious.

“We are getting to the stage where we are perfecting our election processes, and it’s very likely that disputes around elections will not even get to the Supreme Court any more if the reforms that are being suggested are put in place.”

Daily Trust reports that Kekere-Ekun was born on May 7, 1958. She obtained LLB in 1980 from the University of Lagos (Unilag) and LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science in November, 1983. She was called to the Nigerian Bar on July 10, 1981. She was appointed a Senior Magistrate Grade II, Lagos State Judiciary, in December, 1989 and was appointed as a judge of the High Court of Lagos State in July, 1996. She served as Chairperson of the Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Zone II, Ikeja, Lagos, from November, 1996 to May, 1999. She was elevated as a Justice of the Court of Appeal on September 22, 2004 and served as a member of the Court of Appeal’s ICT Committee from June, 2011, to July, 2013. She has attended numerous courses and seminars within and outside Nigeria such as Case Management and Court Administration Training Workshop organised by the National Centre for State Courts in June, 2001; ICT Training Course (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) in Dubai, UAE, in July, 2012, and the 34th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, Cambridge, UK, in September, 2016.

She was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 8, 2013. She has delivered papers at various workshops, seminars and training workshops for magistrates and judges, among which are “Delay in Election Tribunal Proceedings: Solutions” delivered at the All Nigerian Judges Conference, Abuja, between November 16 and 20, 2009; “Law: A Tool for Social Change”, delivered at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch’s Law Week on November on 30, 2010; and “Stimulation and Sustenance of Economic Development through the Use of ADR Systems in the Judicial Process-Supreme Court Perspective”, delivered at the 2015 All Nigerian Judges Conference, Abuja, on November 25, 2015.

Justice Kudirat is a member of notable clubs and professional associations and has received several merit awards. She enjoys reading, music, information technology and counselling. She is happily married with children.

 

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