…CJN’s statement in P-Harcourt leaves much to be desired — CSOs

…Ask CJN to resign or face nationwide protest

By Omeiza Ajayi

A protest against the Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, was yesterday dispersed by a detachment of anti-riot policemen of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, command of the Nigeria Police.

Recall that the CJN had run into troubled waters, following a political statement he made at a dinner organised in his honour by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who invited him to commission the Retired Justice Mary Odili’s Auditorium in Port Harcourt last weekend.

The CJN was reported to have said he was glad that Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, was a member of G-5, which is a rebellious group within Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which had since kicked against the statement.

The protesters, acting under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria, CCSN, had begun their protest from the Unity Fountain and headed towards the Supreme Court before they were stopped around the Federal Ministry of Justice by policemen, led by a Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP Altine Hyelhira Daniel.

The policemen fired teargas canisters at the protesters and journalists who were interviewing their leader.

The protesters had accused the CJN of dabbling into partisan politics, saying his utterances in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, while being a guest of Gov. Nyesom Wike, left much to be desired.

The coalition is made up of 18 CSOs, including Civil Society Forum of Nigeria, Nigeria Youth Development Forum, Democratic Youth Initiative, Forum for Social Justice, Movement for the Development of Democracy and Safeguard Nigeria Movement.

Others are Alliance for People’s Welfare, Forward Nigeria Movement, Human Right Crusaders, Defenders of Democracy, Democratic Rights Assembly and Voter’s Rights Assembly.

Addressing journalists before the protest was disrupted, spokesperson of the coalition, Olayinka Dada, said Nigerians must say no to “judicial politicians”.

He said; “We are out today to save our hard fought democracy. Seeing the hard fought democracy under threat as we are witnessing now is nonetheless a misnomer. Nigerians will resist this affront with all legitimacy of their convictions!

“A few days ago, Nigerians woke up to the reckless partisan interference of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tajudeen Olukayode Ariwoola, in political dispute capable of making Nigerians distrust the electoral processes leading to the 2023 general elections.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria in an unholy visitation to Rivers State, alleged to be a commissioning exercise, made reckless statements in favor of his new found political friend, Governor Nyesom Wike.

“The Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria has since analysed his statements at the commissioning and came to the conclusion that democracy is, indeed, in danger.

“How do we explain that the man saddled with the impartial role of dispensing justice is now on the side of a particular group in a political dispute?

“This portends great danger to the smooth dispensation of justice in case of electoral dispute before, during and after the 2023 general elections.

“Nigerians will not watch this overbearing suggestion by the CJN to rob off on the citizens on the good governance which they have suffered in the last eight years.

“Governor Makinde is a renowned ally of Governor Wike and others in the camp. What is the CJN’s business advocating for them outside the courts?

“As responsible citizens of this country and the voice of the voiceless, we demand the immediate sack of the CJN, especially now. The CJN’S position is nonetheless an invitation to anarchy and we condemn his political romance with political actors in all ramifications.

“In the coming days, should the CJN refuse to resign, our coalition will press for all legitimate means through citizens’ revolt for him to vacate the exalted, impartial and independent office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.”

In an earlier rebuttal, the CJN had through his media aide, Dr Festus Akande, exonerated the head of the apex court of partisanship.

The CJN had said:  “We can’t really pinpoint where such barefaced falsehood is coming from; and certainly, we don’t also know at what point the CJN said he was happy that Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State was a member of the now christened “Integrity Group” or “G-5 Governors.

“Everyone knows that the CJN, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, is a Judicial officer and not a politician, as such, would never directly or remotely make such comments or innuendoes.

“We wish to set the record straight by making it clear that the CJN and other senior Judicial Officers drawn from different parts of the country were in Port Harcourt on Thursday and Friday, being the 24th and 25th days of November, 2022 to commission the two buildings to accommodate the Federal Judicial Service Commission’s South-South Liaison Office and the Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili Judicial Institute, that were conceptualized and constructed by the Rivers State Government.

“Even at the State Banquet organised as part of the events, the CJN made it clear in his brief remarks, that he (CJN) was not in Port Harcourt for the State Banquet but simply to commission the two projects as a mark of honour for the Judiciary and Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili, retd, and later go back to Abuja thereafter.

“Similarly, he said he was very surprised to see the “G-5 Governors” (“Integrity Group Governors”), just as he equally expressed the same surprise when he saw them in Ibadan, Oyo State, during the reception organised in his honour by his state government in October, 2022.”

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