The crisis which engulfed the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Monday consumed the embattled Justice Tanko Muhammad, as he unceremoniously resigned as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, though citing health reason.

Judiciary sources said Justice Muhammad resigned to avoid the embarrassment the rift would have on his career, especially as he is supposed to retire in about 18 months’ time.

The immediate past CJN’s ordeal started when his brother Justices recently wrote a letter to him, complaining of the sordid state of affairs at the Supreme Court.

The Justices, who wrote the letter to Justice Muhammad are, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Dattijo Mohammed, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, John Inyang Okoro, Chima Centus Nweze, Amina Adamu Augie, and Uwani Musa Abba-Aji. Other Justices of the apex court include Mohammed Lawal Garba, Helen Moronikeji Ogunwumiju, Abdu Aboki, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar, and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim.

In the letter titled, ‘The State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Demand by Justices of the Court’, the 14 Justices who authored and endorsed the letter expressed reservation on Justice Muhammad’s leadership style.

Specifically, the 14 Justices raised issues of corruption, gross misconducts and poor welfare.

The aggrieved Justices gave an instance where the Chief Registrar served them with an internal memo, that electricity would be supplied to the court between the hours of 8a.m and 4p.m daily, for lack of diesel.

“The implication of this memo is that the Justices must finish their work and close before 4p.m.

“Your Lordship with all due respect, this is the peak of the degeneration of the court; it is the height of decadence, and clear evidence of the absence of probity and moral rectitude.

 “Your Lordship, thisactalone portends imminent danger to the survival of this court and the Judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting to extinction. “The Judiciary is an arm of government, just like the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court is these at of the Judiciary as an arm of government. “The implication of the memo is that this arm of government is potentially shut down.

May God never allow that day”, the Justices stated. Also, an instance was made on the issue of overseas training, wherein the Justices had accused the ousted CJN of travelling abroad and enjoying his estacodes with his “spouse, children and personal staff,” while depriving the rest of the Justices of such.

On two occasions when the Justices had travelled abroad for training, they said, they were barred from travelling with an assistant as it used to be under previous administrations.

“We demand to know what has become of our training funds, have they been diverted, or is it a plain denial?” the concerned Justices queried.


Without mincing words, the Justices said, “Your Lordship, this is a wakeup call. Your Lordship must take full responsibility as our leader. You must not concession your responsibility to people who have no responsibility or stake in preserving and defending the dignity of the institution.

“Your Lordship occupies a position of leadership. We will not wait for the total collapse of the institution.

We must not abandon our responsibility to call Your Lordship to order in the face of these sad developments that threaten our survival as an institution”, they wrote.

Furthermore, the Justices had threatened to take drastic steps if the CJN failed to swiftly address the issues they raised.

However, while admitting there was a rift amongst Justices of the Supreme Court over the deteriorating financial state of affairs in the apex court, Justice Muhammad, through his media aide, Ahuraka Isah, parried most of the issues raised without any definite answer.

A source said the 14 Justices were angered by the reply, especially coming from the aide of the Chief Justice.

Justice Muhammad said Judges in all climes are to be seen and not heard, and that informed why he had refrained from joining issues with the angry Justices “until a letter, said to be personal, is spreading a cross the length and breadth of the society”.

“This was akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter”, the CJN stated.

However, in a bid to cover up, Justice Muhammad in response to the said letter stated that the “general public should be rest assured that there’s no hostility or adverse feelings amongst the Justices of the Supreme Court, as everyone is going about his normal duty. “

The Supreme Court definitely does not exist outside its environment, it is also affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country.

“The accusation so far, in summary is that more or all ought to have been done and not that nothing has been done; which is utopian in the contemporary condition of our country”, the CJN said.

According to the CJN, within the three years the aggrieved Justices mentioned “came the COVID-19 pandemic and the judiciary workers’ strike.”

But a Judiciary source on Monday said the 14 Justices pushed out Chief Justice Muhammad from office, especially after they allegedly threatened to make a case over their training funds, asking whether the funds were diverted?

The source said the former CJN considered the enormous embarrassment this and other issues raised by the Justices would have on his career, especially as he is supposed to retire in about 18 months’ time, so he had to save his career and resigned from office.

Reacting, an Abuja based legal practitioner, Innocent Daagba, said Justice Muhammad toed the “path of honour by resigning as the CJN”.

Buhari Swears In Olukayode Ariwoola As Chief Justice Of Nigeria

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has sworn in Olukayode Ariwoola as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, to replace Justice Tanko Muhammed.

The ceremony which gives constitutional backing to the acting CJN was performed at the Council Chambers inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Shortly after Ariwoola was sworn in, Buhari conferred on the former Chief Justice of Nigeria with the second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).

The acting CJN, however, pledged to preserve and protect the constitution of Nigeria in synergy with other Supreme Court Justices.

He denied controversies making the rounds that there was sharp division among the body of Justices at the Supreme Court, stating that most of the issues raised in the memo would be addressed in due course.

Recall that Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad had replaced Justice Walter Onnoghen who was removed unceremoniously over allegation of under declaration of assets.

His removal which elicited diverse reactions within the Nigerian polity was carried out in the build up to the 2019 general elections, which saw President Buhari clinching a second term. Justice Ariwoola is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court.


Justice Ariwoola, born on August 22, 1958, was formerly a Justice of the Court of Appeal and was elevated to the Supreme Court bench.

Asked what would be his priority as CJN, he said, “What Nigerians expect from me is to comply, preserve and abide and protect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And so be it.

That is what I will do especially with the cooperation of my brother Justices of the Supreme Court. We shall not fail Nigerians”.

 Asked also to comment on the crisis brewing within the apex court, he responded, saying, “There is no controversy in the SupremeCourt. We are one with the Chief Justice.

That’s why you heard the President said His Lordship is disengaging on the grounds of ill-health. No controversy, we are one”, he said. On the welfare issues raised in the memo, he said, “It was just an internal memo of the court. It was not a petition. It was not a letter.

 It was addressed by the brother Justices of the Chief Justice and presented to him, His Lordship directly. There were issues to be resolved amongst justices. “We’ve started resolving the issues”, he said.

 Buhari also confirmed that he received a letter from Justice Tanko Muhammad, informing him of his resignation as Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, on health grounds.

The resignation is to take immediate effect! The immediate past CJN was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2006, sworn in on the January 8, 2007, and became the Chief Justice of Nigeria in acting capacity on January 25, 2019. He later became the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.

Buhari stated further that ordinarily, he was scheduled to retire from the Supreme Court on the last day of 2023. Unfortunately, as no man is infallible, illhealth has cut short Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian Judiciary at this time. “I am therefore constrained to accept his retirement, albeit with mixed-feelings.

Much as one may wish that the Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammed Tanko is able to fully serve his term in office, it presupposes that he is able to perform the functions of the office without let, hindrance or any form of disability.

“The instant resignation of Justice Tanko is however envisaged under section 231(4) of the 1999 constitution as amended which contains provisions relating to vacancy and the occupant of the Office of Chief Justice of Nigeria being unable to perform the functions of the office for any reason.

“Under a constitutional democracy like ours, government powers and responsibilities are clearly allocated and shared among the three tiers: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

The three organs must work harmoniously and optimally in accordance with their respective constitutional mandates,” the president stated. In a further remark, Buhari said Nigeria’s Judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammed judiciously exercised the judicial powers of the federation.

He said his era witnessed several landmark, jurisprudential and policy decisions by the Supreme Court, and by extension other courts established by the constitution.

He said, “CJN Tanko dealt firmly with the issue of reckless and indiscriminate grant of ex-parte orders that was assuming serious dimensions.

“History will be kind to Justice Tanko Muhammed for his modest contributions to Nigeria’s judiciary, the strengthening of our democracy and national development.

“In line with the custom of decorating Chief Justices of Nigeria with the second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), and upon the advice of the Council of State in that regard, as his Lordship CJN I.

Tanko Muhammed is taking a bow from the Supreme Court, I hereby bestow on him the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).

“This occasion is an opportune time for me, to, as always, assure the Nigerian judiciary that this administration is committed to ensuring the independence of the judiciary and will not do anything nor take any steps to undermine your independence.

We shall uphold the constitutional provisions on the rule of law and the principles of separation of powers.

“In the circumstances, and as nature abhors a vacuum, I hereby invite Honourable Olukayode Ariwoola JSC, being the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to come forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an acting capacity, pursuant to section 231(4) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

“I want to admonish the Justices of the Supreme Court to always remain faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to remain steadfastly committed to the oath of allegiance which they all subscribed to, ascontainedinthe7th Scheduletothe1999constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“Our nation is approaching a critical general election in 2023, the judiciary must not do anything to fail the ordinary people of Nigeria which may make them lose confidence in the judiciary”.

NBA Asks Justice Ariwoola To Rebuild Confidence In The Judiciary

In the meantime, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it received the news of the resignation, on grounds of ill health, of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.

“It is, however, impossible, to consider Justice Muhammad’s retirement in isolation of the recent unprecedented developments at the Supreme Court where 14 Justices of the court censured the outgone CJN over his handling of their welfare and related issues.

 “Beyond this, there is near universal agreement that public confidence in the Judiciary and indeed the legal profession is at an all-time low.

“There is now more than ever  the need for urgent reforms in the Judiciary and to rebuild the almost dissipated confidence that Nigerians have in the Judiciary and the wider legal profession in Nigeria”, the NBA stated.

In a statement on Monday, NBA President, Olumide Akpata, stated that the immediate first tasks for the new CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola,” is expected to now take over as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The NBA welcomes the appointment of Honourable Mr. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and pledges its readiness to work together with His Lordship and the Judiciary in cleansing the Augean stable and addressing the ills that have continued to plague not just the Judiciary but the entire legal profession”

CJN’s Resignation Not Enough, EFCC Should Arrest Him— HURIWA

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Monday, said the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the Chief Justice of Nigeria was not enough to clear him of corruption allegations levelled against him by the 14 Justices of the Supreme Court.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, demanded the immediate arrest, investigation and if culpable then prosecute the retired CJN Tanko by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

 He, however, said, “The resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the Chief Justice of Nigeria is not enough; the EFCC and the ICPC must swing into action, investigate then if a cause if acton is ascertained, then arrest and prosecute him over the corruption allegations levelled against him by the 14 Justices of the Supreme Court if a prima facie evidence exists.

 “Justice Tanko must be prosecuted just as his predecessor, Walter Onnoghen, who was probed and later removed on a controversial note following some allegations against him which was probed by both the NJC and the CCT.

 “The investigation and probable prosecution of Tanko if indicted, will set a precedent that Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade is not a joke unless it is a joke.

Tanko’s prosecution if found culpable of those sets of allegations will also serve as deterrent for any proven corrupt Justices that the judiciary won’t be a haven for scoundrels.

Akingbolu, Aborisade Want Justice Muhammad Investigated

Similarly, a Lagos based lawyer and human rights activists, Kabir Akingbolu, said the CJN’s resignation is a good development as he has towed the path of honour. He, however, added that his resignation should not be the end of the grievous allegations against him. “There is the compelling need to investigate him and bring the matter to a logical end devoid of any surmise or incubating permutation of corruption. This is because if left uninvestigated, it will lay a dangerous precedence for generations to come.

Correspondingly, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Aborisade, said in his opinion, the former CJN was said to have resigned on account of ill health, but it would appear that the joint letter by 14 Justices of the apex court had a compelling contributory effect.

 “The demand made by the Justices are basic to enable them perform their job of dispensing justice.

I also think the reaction of the Chief Justice of Nigeria has not denied the justification of the demand of the Justices.

“The Justices are aggrieved that the CJN did not carry them along in managing the affairs of the court, involving a democratic system of managing the affairs of the court is the key challenge thrown up by the CJN.

“I also think everyone stands to benefit if we all insist that the socio-economic rights under chapter 2 of the constitution are implemented.

“It would, therefore, be necessary for the new CJN to draw pertinent lessons from the legitimate complaints of the 14 Justices, of which the Ag CJN was a part,” he said.






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