The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Honourable Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, hit the bull’s eye recently when he told politicians to leave the judiciary alone to function in Nigeria and in the same he urged the judiciary on their part to leave politics to politicians in and across the country to enable them function effectively.
Justice Ariwoola said this while speaking at a reception organised in his honour by the Oyo state government at the Manhattan Hall, Eleyele Road, Jericho, Ibadan. “I want to admonish the politicians to leave the judiciary alone for us to function. Let them do their own thing while we do ours too. Law is not static. What we apply is law as it is made,” he said.
Justice Ariwoola added, “I feel overwhelmed today and thank my governor. I want to assure Nigerians that we are ready and waiting and we shall not let down Nigerians. On the 12th of October, when I was sworn-in as the CJN in substantive capacity, the governor appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari on behalf of the entire Oyo state.
“His Excellency, I congratulate you so much and this is novel again. You moved four executives of their respective states to this dinner in appreciation of God. “Your Excellency would have noticed that being a Pacesetter State, what happened on the day of my swearing-in was more of a Pacesetter event.”
Speaking, Governor Makinde said his administration will continue to promote the independence of the judiciary in the state as his administration has created the enabling environment for the judicial arm of government to carry out its constitutional responsibilities, because it recognises that it is the bastion of hope for the common man.
The governor stressed that it was the first time in the history of Nigeria that Oyo state would produce the Chief Justice of Nigeria and that the development has heralded many pacesetting achievements for the state.
The event was graced by Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia state); Samuel Ortom (Benue state) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu state). Also present were justices of the Supreme Court, the leadership of Oyo state judiciary, legal luminaries, top officials of the Oyo state government, traditional rulers, among others.
It is instructive that the CJN, who was sworn in recently by President Buhari had his job cut out for him as the nation’s number one judicial officer. Legal luminaries including senior advocates of Nigeria and the Nigeria Bar Association had expressed their expectations of Ariwoola.
Chief Yomi Aliyyu SAN, who hailed the appointment of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola following the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammed, urged the new CJN to ensure quick dispensation of justice and to end the overpopulation at the apex court with justices picked from magistrate courts to the Supreme Court which he said led to the delivery of pro-establishment judgments.
Aliyyu said, “The first task before him is to bring experienced private practice practitioners to the Supreme Court bench to allow for cross fertilisation of ideas and anti-establishment judgments as done in the time of Justices Elias, Eso, Oputa and Nnamani of the golden age of the Supreme Court!
“Also, from his years of practice in both the public and private bars, my Lord is expected to look closely at the operations of the apex court with a view to bringing it in tandem with the modern day apex court as obtainable in other climes.
“There is no reason why cases should spend close to eight or 15 years before being heard. I have a land matter which briefs have been filed since 2008 still pending at the Supreme Court! In that wise, the rules of the court must change! Briefs should be enough to decide appeals. After all, 95 per cent of the appeals are argued within five minutes of identifying the briefs by simply saying, “I adopt and rely on my brief!
The acting CJN assumed office at a turbulent period in the nation’s judiciary’s hierarchy with 14 justices of the Supreme Court making public allegations of corruption and neglect of the welfare of judicial officers.
Speaking after his inauguration, Justice Ariwoola, while responding to President Buhari’s admonition not to fail the people in the upcoming 2023 general elections, promised to abide by the country’s constitution in his functions, while also assuring on resolving the issues contained in the letter written by the justices.
Reacting to what should be the focus of the new helmsman in the apex court, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Professor Epiphany Azinge, urged the acting CJN to prioritise the welfare of judges.
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) through its president, Olumide Akpata, counselled the acting CJN to restore public confidence in the judiciary following the letter by the 14 justices.
The appeal by the CJN to politicians and judges could not have come at a better time than now that the country is heading towards the 2023 general elections that will occasion a transitional transfer of power at the centre and in most of the 36 states of the federation whose governors have exhausted their their constitutional two terms of eight years.
We, therefore, urge politicians and the judges to heed the advise of Ariwoola, considering that it is critical to the conduct of free, fair, transparent and acceptable elections in the country in 2023.