The resignation of Justice Muhammadu Tanko as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), following allegations of dereliction of duty, misappropriation of resources and abuse of power, by the rest 14 Justices of the Supreme Court, is a welcome development, but not enough to stall an investigation of the grave allegations. Even though the CJN had denied the allegations, and reportedly resigned because of ill-health, the stench from the allegations must be investigated thoroughly by the National Judicial Commission (NJC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), or, if more appropriate, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
It is only after the matter is investigated and Justice Tanko is either cleared or indicted that the controversy can go away. Again, it is only after an investigation that any weaknesses in the governance structure of the NJC can be identified and appropriate remedial measures taken. Such outcome will also be beneficial for the successors of the departed CJN, and guide them against such mistakes or infractions if there was any. Furthermore, it is after such investigation that if any infractions were committed that appropriate sanctions can apply to those indicted.
So, Nigerians should not be treated scornfully by allowing the swirl of allegations to stymie the integrity of the apex court, and the NJC, which, like Caesar’s wife, is supposed to be above board. Again, Justice Tanko is just the head of the NJC, and the alleged infractions, like buying of refurbished cars, and diversion of resources, if true, couldn’t have been perpetrated by the former CJN, without the involvement of some other officials. It is also possible that the former CJN may be innocent of the allegations, while the culprits are lurking within the system.
have been denied them, and the answer by the retired CJN is that the resources available cannot meet the demands. Perhaps that tallies with the substance of the ongoing case filled by Mr.Sebastine Hon, a lawyer, seeking to enhance the budgetary allocation due to the judiciary. We believe that if the accounts of the NJC are subjected to a thorough investigation, it will provide evidence of either under-budgeting or wastage.
The alleged involvement of the children of the former CJN in untoward practices is one more reason why such investigation should be conducted. Even the claim by the 14 justices that the members of the family of the CJN were enjoying the resources ordinarily due to the justices and their technical assistants should be a subject of interest, as an enquiry will establish the due entitlements of the families of justices, and what should be strictly for the justices alone with their staff.
We are also of the strong view that the office of the CJN should be isolated from the day-to-day management of the resources of the NJC, including the Supreme Court. Perhaps, because of the fact that judicial autonomy is still evolving, the CJN doubles as the chief justice as well as the chief accounting officer in practice? If that is the case, what then is the responsibility of the Federal Judicial Service Commission? If the CJN is isolated, he would concentrate on the higher calling of dispensing justice.
We urge the NJC, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the Body of Benchers, and all other critical stakeholders to note that the manner of departure of the last two chief justices of Nigeria, and even the allegations of untoward practices that trailed some of their predecessors have affected the trust of Nigerians on the judiciary. These bodies must join hands to ensure a structure that protects the integrity of the office of the CJN, for the good of our judicial system.