Judiciary Now Something Else — Retiring Supreme Court Justice Dattijo Accuses CJN Ariwoola Over Abuse Of Power

A retiring justice of the Supreme Court, Musa Dattijo Muhammad, who pulled out from the seven-man panel that dismissed all the appeals, has accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, of abusing the powers of his office.

It was gathered that Justice Muhammad retired from the Supreme Court bench on Friday, having clocked the 70 years mandatory retirement age.

However, speaking at a valedictory session organised in his honour by the apex court, the former judge revealed the rots in the judiciary that have continued to affect the justice delivery system in the country.

He said: “As presently structured, the CJN is Chairman of the NJC which oversees both the appointment and discipline of judges, he is equally Chair of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), the National Judicial Institute (NJI), the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) that appoints Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

“In my considered opinion, the oversight functions of these bodies should not rest on an individual alone. A person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely.

“As Chair of NJC, FJSC, NJI and LPPC, appointments as council, board and commitment members are at his pleasure. He neither confers with fellow justices nor seek their counsel or input on any matter related to these bodies. He has both the final and the only say.

“The CJN has power to appoint 80 percent of members of the council and 60 percent of members of FJSC. The same applies to NJI and LPPC.

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“Such enormous powers are effortlessly abused. This needs to change. Continued denial of the existence of this threatening anomaly weakens effective judicial oversight in the country.”

“My lord Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko JSC who also represented the zone retired on 23rd of May, 2022. It has been a year and five months now. There has not been any replacement.

“With the passing of my lord, Hon. Justice Chima Centus Nweze, JSC on 29th July 2023, the South East no longer has any presence at the Supreme Court. My lord, Hon. Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta JSV died on 7th March 2021. There has not been any appointment in his stead for the South East.

“As it stands, only four geo-political regions- the South-West, South-South, North-West and North-East are represented in the Supreme Court.

“While the South-South and North-East have two serving justices, the North-West and South-West are fully represented with three each.

“It is evident that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the court is deliberate. It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN and the responsible exercise of same.”

“It is therefore dangerous for democracy and equity for two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians.

“This is not what our laws envisage. Although it can be posited that no one expected the sudden passing of Hon. Justice Nweze JSC, yet, it has been two years and seven months since previous justice from South-East died and no appointment was made.

“My lords, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen, it is obvious that the judiciary I am exiting from is far from the one I voluntarily joined and desired to serve and be identified with. The institution has become something else,” Justice Muhammad lamented.