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Opinion: Exit Of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CJN- Reuben Abati



By Reuben Abati

Yesterday, Nigerians before mid-day, were treated to the news that Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) had resigned his appointment on health grounds. Arise TV  broke the news, and it was my lot to make the announcement, with Arise News quoting impeccable and credible sources. It was a day of excitement for me: it looked to me really as if the CJN had overstayed his welcome but at the same time it was on the same day that the Legal Practitioners and Privileges Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) shortlisted the name of Mrs. Abimbola Onikepo Braithwaite, editor of the Law pages of ThisDay newspaper, for the second year in a row as a potential Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) under the academic category. Mrs. Braithwaithe has been a major force in the legal profession, using her platforms in the media and in practice to advance the cause of the rule of law, to explain the law, and promote enlightenment and the cause of justice on a weekly basis through the exalted platform of the This Day newspaper law pages. Her commitment in this regard has been exemplary. I find her analysis and choice of contributors and subjects consistently on point, making her law pages a weekly must-read for the learned and the unlearned and the general community, seeking deep insights into fine points of law. I pray she succeeds this time.


The final selection of the SAN Class of 2022 should be rigorous and thorough. The Silk must be a true garment of distinction, not a chieftaincy title. But of course, the bigger news was the sudden announcement of the resignation of His Lordship, Justice Tanko Ibrahim Muhammad as CJN. I wondered after reading the news: did he jump? Was he pushed? Is this just about his health?


What has been reported is clear: he resigned on health grounds. Ordinarily that should be enough. The job of a Supreme Court Justice requires that he should be compos mentis and enjoy the agility of the highest order to lead a nation-wide body of judex, provide leadership at the Bar and the Bench and at the same time run the activities of the apex court of the land. The CJN is also the Chair of the National Judicial Council, with all of that body’s sensitive responsibilities. He is the de facto head of the judiciary under Sections 6 and 231 of the Nigerian Constitution. Any drama, change, or withdrawal at that level of government cannot be taken lightly.  A change of command at the apex court in an election season that has begun and the general elections just about seven months away, is also a matter of serious national consideration with implications for the entire democratic process, the judiciary being an aspect of that. Let no one be under any illusion: Tanko Ibrahim Muhammed’s sudden resignation as the Chief of Justice of Nigeria is not just one of those events. It deserves closer interrogation.


He assumed office as CJN under controversial circumstances, he has now stepped down in an even more controversial manner.  He became a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2007, from the Court of Appeal where he served for 13 years, and became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, first in acting capacity on January 25, 2019, and then substantively, on July 24, 2019. He succeeded Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen whose exit from the Supreme Court Bench is probably the most controversial ever in the history of the Supreme Court. Many believe that Onnoghen was pushed out of office more for political reasons than for his own infractions.  Onnoghen himself two years after his removal had cause to disclose that he was unceremoniously removed from office by the Buhari government because it was believed that he had a secret meeting with former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Dubai before the 2019 general elections. Atiku at the time, as he now is, was the Presidential standard bearer of the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)


In January 2019, a month to the general elections, Onnoghen was removed from office, via the instrumentality of an ex parte order, and tried before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on a six-count charge of corruption, including false declaration of assets, and the ownership of foreign currency accounts which were never declared.  Onnoghen was convicted on all six counts and banned from holding public office for 10 years. He was additionally ordered to forfeit all the five accounts said not to have been declared by him between 2009 and 2015. Thus ended the tenure of the 15th substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). Questions were raised about procedure, especially why the CJN as he then was had to be taken before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, instead of the National Judicial Council (NJC). Onnoghen insisted that he had done no wrong. Many Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and others observed at the time that, whereas Justice Onnoghen may have committed one or two errors of oversight, his removal was more about the 2019 election, and the attempt by the ruling party to seize control of the post-election process. Wherever he is today, Onnoghen must be having a smirk on his face. It is election season again, soon it would be time for another round of election petitions and tribunals, and another CJN has had to go.


Many in the know would readily whisper that Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed has been very scarce in circulation for a while due to ill-health, but these persons also express concern about the timing of his exit, and the events leading up to his resignation. Last week, a letter was leaked in the public domain accusing the now former CJN of mismanagement of the resources of the Supreme Court and poor leadership. Fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court accused Tanko Muhammed, CJN (as he then was) of travelling up and down with his “spouse, children and staff” while Justices of the Court were not even allowed to go on training or travel with assistants. They said they work long hours daily without adequate access to power supply or internet services, and that the state of affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria had become deplorable. They accused the CJN of running a one-man show and ignoring important matters of welfare. They said “this is unacceptable”. They threatened “to take further steps”.


The CJN fired back through his spokesperson, Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, who wrote that the Supreme Court is “affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country.” It is standard practice these days for persons in leadership positions to blame climate change and the environment for their own failures. I was surprised Justice Tanko Muhammad did not blame the Russia-Ukraine war for the lack of diesel and internet services at the Supreme Court of Nigeria! He accused his brother Justices of “dancing naked at the market square”, and gave a small, incoherent lecture about how budgets are made and managed, and an additional rigmarole about deaths and transfers at the Supreme Court. He concluded: “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.” Of course, that is not true. The judiciary, the third arm of government under the doctrine of the separation of powers, has never been more divided. The import of the letter by the 14 Justices was that they had lost confidence in the leadership of Justice Tanko Muhammed. The letter was so strongly worded, the tone so dismissive, it was evident that I.T. Muhammad, JSC had lost the moral authority to lead the apex court. He cited ill-heath as the ground for his resignation. It is God that heals. Anyone can fall ill, even the Constitution recognizes this at Section 231(4). We should wish Justice Tanko Muhammed speedy recovery, but it was best he withdrew himself from further embarrassment, and the Supreme Court from further ridicule.


Indeed, before he threw in the towel, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) through its President, Olumide Akpata waded into the matter and concluded that “there is a clear need for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the Judiciary (with the Supreme Court leading the charge) is providing the necessary template to other arms of government on transparent procurement and budgeting.  This will reduce the perception in some quarters that the judiciary is not accountable to anyone and is also not self-regulating.”  As if it was meant to be a follow up to this, a human rights lawyer and activist, Malcolm E. Omirhobo through his law firm, Malcolm Omirhobo & Co wrote a Freedom of Information (FOI) request letter to the former CJN asking for details of transactions of the Supreme Court from 2019 till date. The FOI Request letter demanded: (1) “proof of receipt of total funds disbursed to your Lordship from the National Judicial Council as head of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (2) The Financial Statement of Accounts of the Supreme Court of Nigeria from the 1st day of January 2019 to date; (3) Proof of the total expenditure of the Supreme Court for the period of 1st January 2019 to date… (4) Payment vouchers for projects; (5) The total amount realized from Internally Generated Revenue…” For record purposes, Malcolm Omirhobo is the same lawyer who showed up at the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 23, 2022, to protest against the judgment of the court sanctioning the use of hijab by female Muslim students in Lagos state public schools (per Lagos State Government vs. Asiyat Abdulkareem). Omirhobo, claiming to be expressing gratitude and solidarity over the ruling abandoned his regulation dress code as a lawyer and showed up as an “Olokun” priest in court. He has since continued to show up in court in the same attire while urging everyone to emulate his example and go to work in their religious habiliments. His protest is a fine piece of satire and sarcasm.


This was not the least episode in Justice Tanko Muhammad’s histrionic tenure as Chief Justice of Nigeria.  He assumed office at a time of low confidence in the Nigerian judiciary. He has left it in a worse place, further eroding the integrity of the entire system. Under Justice Tanko Muhammad’s watch, there were frequent cases of indiscipline on the Bench which the National Judicial Council struggled to address without success. Judges and lawyers openly abused court processes, with courts of equal jurisdiction violating elementary rules of procedure. Ex parte orders became so commonplace you would think ex parte was the name of a special delicacy at a fast-food joint. Within three years of the former CJN’s leadership, it became difficult to tell the difference between judges and politicians in many parts of the country. Lawyers were so desperate they became forum and ambulance chasers!  Many appointments to the Bench including the Court of Appeal were controversial. Judgements were delivered based on technicalities with the most notable in this regard being the mathematical conundrum in the Imo Governorship case.


The age of judicial activism and robust intellection was gone. Judges who would love to make the extra effort probably did not bother, confronted as they were, with contradictions in their place of work – the temple of justice. Justice Tanko Muhammad was the 16th Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). In terms of ranking in that office, he would probably literally be ranked in that same position among his peers. President Muhammadu Buhari probably has a different opinion as I guess, many others. In his remarks at the inauguration of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as Acting JSC, on Monday, June 27, 2022 at the State House Abuja, he conferred, after a fashion, the second national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Justice Tanko Muhammad. He also said of him: “History will be kind to Justice Tanko Muhammad for his modest contributions to Nigeria’s judiciary, the strengthening of our democracy and national development.” It seems to me that time is the final arbiter of all things, and of course, time will tell.


But the point has been made in some quarters that perhaps Justice Muhammad was pushed out of the door, – and not for health reasons – but because his brother Justices who had lost confidence in him, were beginning to show signs of anger and restlessness. They even threatened to stop sitting. Imagine Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria going on strike!  In fact, a Supreme Court that some people believe is rather lenient with political leaders suddenly delivered a hammer blow the other day. For example, in a recent ruling, in the matter of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 brought before the Court by President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Supreme Court practically rebuked both the President and the AGF for seeking to use the court to violate the legislative supremacy of the National Assembly. A panel of seven Justices dismissed the suit as an abuse of judicial process!  Does this have anything to do with the former CJN’s exit?


Whatever it is, there is still some unfinished business around and about his resignation. Justice Walter Onnoghen lost his position in 2019, as a result of a petition by a civil society activist, raising issues of corruption. The Federal Government pounced on this and hounded him out of office. Justice Tanko Muhammad was openly accused by his own team in the apex court, including the next person to him in terms of seniority, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who has now succeeded him in an acting capacity, pending the activation of due process leading to his own eventual confirmation. The former CJN should not just exit like that. His colleagues, the NBA and the activist, Malcolm Omirhobo have raised questions about transparency and accountability. Those questions must be addressed. Really, how much was collected? How much was spent? What kind of budgeting and expenditure systems exist at the apex court?


Justice Ariwoola who has now taken over the mantle of leadership at the Supreme Court has his job cut out for him. The first thing is to rebuild morale within the judiciary, starting from the apex court. The second is to dispel the clouds left behind by his predecessor with regard to funds management and welfare. The third is to do everything to raise the profile and integrity of the judiciary. He has the lessons of history behind him, and the experience of his two immediate predecessors and their circumstances.

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Fuel Subsidy Removal: FG, Labour Meeting Ends in Deadlock




Talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump prices to over N700 from N195 per litre by oil marketers.

The hours-long meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to, among other things, prevent a labour crisis following the recent increase in the petrol pump price occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it had adjusted the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to reflect the market realities. The agency, however, failed to state the new prices of petrol.

However, several retails outlets sold the product between 600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja , Ogun and some other states.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, pointed out that the hike in the cost of PMS would trigger galloping inflation in the country, stressing that some outlets in the South-East were currently dispensing the product at N1,200/l.

Ukadike stated, “Once NNPCL retail stations have adjusted their pumps to reflect the new price, there is nothing you can do about it; that is the new price. As I speak with you, all of them are now selling at the new prices. The situation is so bad, that somewhere in Ebonyi State our members informed us that it is now N1,200/litre.

“We thought the President would remove the subsidy through a seamless means because the source of this petrol is the NNPCL. They are the ones subsidising petroleum products, they are the people who use their revenue to subsidise this product.’’

The IPMAN spokesperson expressed worry over the rate of increase in inflation and hardship that would come as a result of the latest hike in petrol price.

“This hike in petrol price will definitely lead to galloping inflation and will worsen the hardship already being faced by the Nigerian masses. It is not something to cheer about. It came as a surprise and in the coming days, we will see the very harsh ripple effects,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike has called on the Federal Government and the NNPCL to give other marketers the opportunity to start importing petrol in order to create competition in the sector.

“The NNPCL is importing and has not given people the opportunity to join them in importing so as to see whether private sector operators can import the product cheaper or not. So there is no competition. In a deregulated regime, there must be competition, everyone with capacity should be allowed to import,” the IPMAN official stated.

When asked whether other marketers could resume imports since the government had finally deregulated petrol prices, Ukadike replied, “Marketers can import, but let me tell you some of the factors militating against this. The first is that there won’t be availability of dollars.

“You will source your dollar from the parallel market and if you are not careful in doing this, and you go into the importation of petroleum products, you might not ‘come out of it alive’ at the end of the day.

“So what we are saying is that those advantages that NNPCL has, should be shared with other major importers of petroleum products. If it is through crude buy-back, they should let us know so that independent players such as IPMAN members can come together and be able to use it in the buy-back model.’’

He added, “For independent marketers, the most important thing is that there should be availability of petroleum products, and the government should open up the space for importers and investors to come in.”

NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running, confirmed the hike in petrol price in a statement and a new pricing template released to marketers nationwide.

But the move has sparked a groundswell of anger across the nation with the Nigeria Labour Congress demanding an immediate reversal of the decision.

The union also said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday on the fuel price increase which had triggered hoarding and scarcity across the country with attendant rise in transport fares, goods and services.

The fuel price hike by the oil firm is coming 72 hours after President Bola Tinubu declared in his inaugural address on Monday that the subsidy regime had ended.

To pacify the growing anger over the situation, the FG hastily summoned some labour leaders to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday evening.

The meeting had in attendance the NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, former NLC President and immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, and others, however, ended in a deadlock as the labour and government teams failed to reach a consensus.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Joe Ajaero, said “As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”

He faulted the NNPCL over an official release published hours earlier reviewing the petrol pump price in its filling stations nationwide.

He said the move puts the labour unions in a difficult position on the negational table.

“That’s the principle of negotiation. You don’t put the partner, ask them to negotiate under gunpoint. The prayer of the NLC is that we go back to the status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people. If it is an action that must take off.

“The subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June. And before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government should be able to think of what will happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before the time,” Ajaero said.

The Punch

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Breaking: Founder, DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi is Dead




By Eric Elezuo

The Founder of DAAR Communications, owners of the foremost radio and television stations in Nigeria, Raypower and African Independent Television (AIT), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, is dead.

Reliable sources said the High Chief died while exercising on a treadmill on Monday afternoon.

The source said Dopkesi suffered a stroke some weeks ago.

Details soon…

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I Stand on Rule of Law, with Our Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, PDP, Says Dele Momodu




By Eric Elezuo

Frontline journalist and Director of Strategic Communications of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Council in the just concluded Presidential election, Chief Dele Momodu, had said that he remains a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and will always stand on the side of rule of law, and with the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Momodu made the revelations in a statement he signed himself, noting that the last election, which brought Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to power, was savagely manipulated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

He praised the steps Atiku, and the presidential candidate of the Labour candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, have taken in seeking legal redress.

The statement in details:


My position on the state of our country NIGERIA is simple and straightforward. I’m a loyal member of PDP who owes absolute allegiance to Nigeria and its Rule of Law. My political party PDP and others passionately hold the view that the last Presidential election was savagely manipulated by the ruling party APC and the cases are already in courts. Nothing will make me abandon my party on the altar of convenience and profit. Win or lose, I will continue to stand on this principle without any malice or prejudice against those who think otherwise. Democracy is a game of choice and I’m resolutely standing by our candidate, the former Vice President ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR (GCON) who has taken the honorable and peaceful step of going to court to seek redress. This is the only way we can deepen our hard earned Democracy. Sacrifice is not always convenient but painful.

I salute and respect The Wazirin Adamawa and others like my dear friend and Brother, former Governor Peter Obi, the Labor Party Presidential candidate, for promoting the best tenets of Democracy in Nigeria and I’m willing to encourage them rather than discourage their onerous quests…


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