By Ise Oluwa Ige
ABUJAâ€”The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, yesterday, dismissed as ignorant, masterminds of the controversy that trailed his swearing-in by his immediate predecessor, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi. He said he was surprised when the controversy by senior lawyers who ought to know started since the law was clear on the issue.
Justice Katsina-Alu, who spoke yesterday in his office in Abuja, during a visit paid on him by management of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, NIAL, said he, however, knew that the controversy would get nowhere because the law was clear on the issue and that more importantly, his appointment as CJN came from God. He appealed to lawyers to put controversies surrounding his swearing-in behind them and join hands with him to make the Nigerian judiciary the best in the world.
It would be recalled that few days to when the new CJN was to take his oath of office, there was a debate as to who would administer the oath on him in view of the absence of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua who is presently receiving medical attention in Saudi Arabia. The Federal Government had said that the then outgoing CJN, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi would administer the oath. The government said that the Oath Act, 1994, allowed Kutigi to perform the function in the absence of Mr President.
Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) who excavated the law from the archives said the 1999 Constitution which is the basic law of the nation did not pontificate that the CJN must be sworn in by the President.
He said the constitution specifically said that the oath of office could be administered by anybody empowered by law. But many lawyers had said that the Oath Act referred to could not apply because there would be two Chief Justices of Nigeria if Kutigi was allowed to swear in his successor. But Justice Katsina-Alu, yesterday, said the law empowered either the President or the outgoing CJN to perform the function.
He said if the CJN performed the function and there happened to be two CJNs at the same time, Nigerians should blame the lawmakers who enacted the Oath Laws and not him or his predecessor. Katsina-Alu, however, said he believed that the debate was over and jocularly added that anybody who is still not satisfied must be sent to the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for re-examination.