The judiciary is historically regarded as a conservative arm of government, but in 2022, key stakeholders shook things up.
From supreme court justices protesting poor welfare to a chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) stepping down, the judiciary was at the centre of several controversial events during the course of the year.
Here are some notable events.
PROTEST LETTER BY SUPREME COURT JUDGES
Poor welfare for judicial officers was one of the most crucial issues talked about by Nigerian judges in 2022.
The issue heightened in June when, in a leaked letter, 14 justices of the supreme court accused Ibrahim Muhammad, the then CJN, of abandoning his responsibilities as the leader of the court.
Some of the issues raised by the justices include — accommodation, transportation, electricity tariff, supply of diesel, internet services to justices’ residences, training for justices and epileptic electricity supply to the court.
The justices said the complaints were raised earlier in the year, and “after several persistent requests” to hold a meeting which was finally held on March 31, a “welfare committee” was set up to aggregate the issues.
However, the CJN was alleged to have ignored all the issues raised.
Responding through his spokesperson, Muhammad said the circulation of the letter by the justices is akin to “dancing naked at the market square”.
The resignation of Ibrahim Muhammad as the CJN is perhaps the remotest thing anyone would have anticipated in 2022.
On June 27, Muhammad, 68, was said to have resigned on the grounds of ill health. But TheCable learned that he was forced to quit his position because of corruption allegations levelled against him in the protest letter by judges of the apex court.
Some justices of the supreme court had threatened to stop sitting by September if Muhammad was not removed as CJN.
Muhammad’s resignation came about 18 months before his retirement in December 2023, when he will clock 70.
APPOINTMENT OF NEW CJN
Following the resignation of Muhammad, Olukayode Ariwoola, justice of the supreme court, was sworn in as the acting CJN.
In July, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the senate to confirm the appointment of Ariwoola as CJN.
The senate confirmed Ariwoola as substantive CJN on September 21 and he was sworn into office by the president on October 12.
DEPLETION IN NUMBER OF S’COURT JUDGES
The number of supreme court justices further depleted this year.
Abdu Aboki became the third justice to retire in 2022 — after the retirement of Mary Peter-Odili and Ejembi Eko.
Also, Muhammad, a former CJN, resigned under controversial circumstances in June.
With Aboki’s exit in September, the number of supreme court justices dropped to 13 as against the maximum requirement of 21.
Speaking at the valedictory ceremony for Aboki, the CJN had said the dwindling number of supreme court judges has become a burden to the apex court.
OLANIPEKUM/AJUMOGOBIA INFLUENCE PEDDLING ROW
Wole Olanipekun, chairman of the Body of Benchers and a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has been under fire since June over an attempt to hijack a client of Henry Ajumogobia, a fellow SAN.
Adekunbi Ogunde, a partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co, was said to have written a letter addressed to SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd — Ajumogobia’s client — soliciting for a brief handled by him.
Despite being aware that the law firm of Ajumogobia was handling the matter, Ogunde said Olanipekun & Co has more “influence” with judges across courts.
Olanipekun later apologised to Ajumogobia, stating that he never approved the email sent by Ogunde, who has since taken a break from law practice.
However, the NBA, in a petition sent on July 20, asked the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to prosecute Ogunde over “professional misconduct”.
The NBA also asked Olanipekun to resign as chairman of the Body of Benchers.
In another letter dated December 4 and addressed to Olanipekun, Yakubu Maikyau, the NBA chairman, reiterated the call for Olanipekun’s resignation.
The NBA also boycotted the recent call-to-bar ceremony held on December 6 over Olanipekun’s refusal to step down.