It was as laughable as it was symbolic. Describing himself as a traditionalist, Malcom Omirhobo came into the Supreme Court last Thursday in a native doctor’s attire: a red wrapper, white chalk circled around his right eye, cowry bracelets around his wrists and feathers in his wig. Walking barefooted, the human rights lawyer came to make mockery of the recent judgement of the apex court which affirmed the right of Muslims to wear hijab in secondary schools in Lagos.
The rot in Nigeria’s judicial system is really deep. Recently, 14 Supreme Court justices appended their signatures to a powerful petition. From the tone of the petition, you would think some students or labour unions were set to ignite their ‘aluta’ mood against the authorities. Incidentally, the protest letter is not against some external forces like the President or the lawmakers. It is against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad. It is the first of its kind in the 58-year history of the Supreme Court.
According to the justices, led by the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court, Olukayode Ariwoola, the CJN usually gallivants abroad with his spouse, children and personal staff while on overseas training, but does not extend the same privilege to them. Among others, they complained about epileptic electricity supply to the courts, high electricity tariff, inadequate supply of diesel to justices’ residences and chambers, poor health care, decrepit vehicles and accommodation issues. The justices then lamented, “We find it strange that despite the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements. This is unacceptable!”
The scandalized CJN offered some explanations. According to him, the apex court, like any other establishment in the country, is cash-strapped. In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Ahuraka Isah, Muhammad said the justices protest letter “is akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter. 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.”
This is very unfortunate. Even the petition written against the immediate past CJN, Walter Onnoghen, cannot be compared with this one. At least, Onnoghen’s travails emanated from some elements outside the bench. But before we knew it, the seemingly little problem led to the harassment and unfortunate removal of the man from office in April 2019. The Code of Conduct Tribunal had convicted him on six counts of false declaration of assets.
Is Tanko Muhammad travelling the same route? Recall that Onnoghen’s predicament surfaced in the run-up to the 2019 general election. The major interpretation of the action against him then was that it was a politically motivated attempt to strategically position the hierarchy of the court in readiness for the litigation that would trail the outcome of the elections.
Now that we are preparing for another general election, a similar crisis of confidence has reared its head against the person and office of the CJN. Could this be politically motivated? Or are the justices genuinely fighting for their welfare?
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hazarded an answer. According to it, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is simply plotting to emasculate the judiciary in order to foist a fascist system and subvert the will of Nigerians in the 2023 general elections. The PDP added, “The failure of the CJN to address the weighty issues contained in the said protest letter reveals that there is a systemic design by the APC-government to ensure that the judiciary is stifled and handicapped to deliver on its constitutional duty as an independent arm of government.”
The more you look, the less you see. In October 2016, some operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded seven judges’ homes in the dead of the night under the guise of investigating allegations of fraud perpetrated by the judges. One of the justices, the late Sylvester Ngwuta, lived with the trauma until death. Last October, security agents also invaded the official residence of Justice Mary Odili (now retired) of the Supreme Court in Abuja for no justifiable reason. These raids usually come with variegated stories and permutations.
As it is, our judiciary is bedevilled by many illnesses. Why, for instance, do some of our judges still write judgements in long hands? Why have we not fully digitalized the processes of our courts today? Why have we not bothered to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary? Why do some judges still rely on technicality rather than justice in dispensing their judgements? And why do courts of coordinate jurisdiction engage in issuing conflicting ex-parte orders or forum shopping, especially in election or party matters?
Last year, in the Anambra State governorship primary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), different characters obtained different judgements from the High Courts in Anambra, Imo and Jigawa. Elsewhere in the country, this has been the norm. The immediate consequence of these anomalies is the erosion of confidence in the judiciary.
Judges are people who should live above board. The society looks up to them especially when it comes to defending the rule of law. Their welfare and entitlements must not be toyed with. But, resorting to ‘aluta continua’ type of action and making it public leave me with suspicions about the intentions of the Supreme Court justices. I may be wrong. But let’s be watchful.
Nevertheless, the allegations against Muhammad raise fundamental moral issues. Hence, thorough investigation is absolutely necessary. The National Judicial Council (NJC) would have been in a position to do it. But the CJN himself is the head of the NJC. Even if he steps aside for another person to preside, it does not stop the fact that the outcome could be manipulated. Nigeria cannot afford to have a tainted Supreme Court at this time. Every organ or group worth its salt in the judiciary, including the Body of Benchers, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the Nigerian Bar Association, retired justices and so on should intervene.
Section 231(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution stipulates that “a person shall not be qualified to hold the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria or a Justice of the Supreme Court, unless he is qualified to practice as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen years.” What this means is that the Supreme Court justices are no babies. They have attained some level of maturity and experience which should temper some of their actions.
As we begin the journey towards the 2023 general election, we should resolve not to treat the sanctity and integrity of our judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, with levity.
Re: Mbaka and season of prophetic terrorism
It’s suspicious that the ‘prophecies’ of these latter-day prophets are always directed at the purse of the rich and powerful of our society, especially during an electioneering period of this nature. Why don’t they tell us about the way of survival of the poor and weak Nigerians? Is it because of their lean purse? Or, don’t they (the poor and weak) also need divine direction to survive the daily economic onslaught? The poor and weak are in millions in Nigeria. But God loves them and charts a convenient path for their survival without their leaning the vagaries of the ‘prophetic messages’ of the Mbakas. Take notice that the making of Obi’s presidency in 2023 is largely founded on the voting direction of the South East, Ndigbo in Diaspora, those dramatising on Facebook and the generality of Nigerians. Whether Obi wins or loses will not depend on Mbaka’s mercantile ‘prophecies’.
-Edet Essien Esq. Cal South, 08037952470
Bros, no mind them. Hungry and lazy people! Obi is good but he should intensify his effort to win the presidency of our great country beyond 2023. I know that one, our dream of his ascension to office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will become a reality.
Dear Casy, in the days of yore, priests, otherwise regarded as men of God, were highly revered. Reason? They exhibited their callings through their strength of character such that they were looked upon as epitome of righteousness, character moulding and true representatives of God on earth. But today, the reverse is the case! Reasons? Fundamentally:- (1) Some of the clergy are not actually called or anointed to serve God. (2) Some were forced into priesthood by their parents in order to curry the prestige accruing therefrom as parents of the clergy. (3) Some, out of frustration for not getting good job as means of livelihood, arising from the realities of our country’s harsh economy, owing to misrule, recourse to priesthood in order to, seamlessly, service their stomach infrastructure and those of their family members. (4) Some were, actually, called and anointed to serve God but were, unwittingly, caught up by RAT RACE which, unfortunately, pulls them away and runs them aground. The combination of all of the above points, regrettably, turns today’s men of God into entrepreneurs in religious garbs, resulting in the Holy Spirit deserting their souls and leaving them as carcasses. Hence, their recourse to what you termed ‘prophetic terrorism’. Solution? Religious rebirth, re-orientation, reconstruction and return to that simple, Spartan, puritanical lifestyle of the priests of old which gave religion some measure of integrity and positive meaning.
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Casmir, may the spiritual arrows of Mbaka that flies during the day and at night not prosper in the life of P. Obi like it did in 2019 when he teamed up with Atiku and failed together! Should Obi lose in 2023, let it be by divine arrangement and not because he is ‘supposedly stingy’ towards God and the kingdom as prophesied by a now apologetic and remorseful Mbaka. Let us forgive him for misfiring again as he is wont to do. He has come to be known for his unguarded, immature utterances! No weapon fashioned against Obi via ‘bad belle’ shall prosper. We condemn every tongue that rises against him IJN!
-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +2348161114572
It is a welcome development for the Catholic Church to suspend Father Mbaka for now over his utterances. It is getting too much for him, especially when election is around the corner. This will be a lesson to other prophets and prophetesses.
-Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +234 806 288 7535
Dear Casmir, diplomatic immunity doesn’t cover a diplomat for espionage and terrorism so anointing cannot cover clergy/clerics for greed and betrayal. Ejike Mbaka should be careful so he doesn’t end up like Eddy Nnogwu and some other fake prophets.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
Mbaka’s ‘prophecies’ about Obi’s presidency are mere threats to extort some Dollars off Obi. Mbaka should have gone in as one of the delegates to get his share. The issue of non-actualisation of a Nigerian president of Igbo stock is a physical thing, not a spiritual one or reliance on Naira-induced prophetic messages. Pray, if you don’t vote for one of your own at the primary of the two leading parties, how would the South-East produce a candidate let alone one who takes a direct shot at the presidential seat?
-Ediye James, +2348108095633
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 27, 2022.