The Nigeria political space and the judiciary were on Monday, (yesterday) surprised to hear the sudden resignation announcement of Justice Tanko as Chief Justice of Nigeria. But what Nigerians did not hear was how avoiding Igbo CJN, 14 judges, and cabals in the presidency played a role in his retirement.
Newsonline reports that the retirement of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad was to his surprise, his family, special advisers, and assistants, but not the plotters of his resignation.
A number of things played a heavy role in Tanko’s resignation, including but not limited to illness; it was a long one-year journey that arrived at its destination on Monday.
Reliable sources said that contrary to the thinking that Muhammad resigned on his own accord, he was actually forced to do so by a high-level team of security and senior government officials.
Tanko Muhammad former CJN was billed to attend a function at the National Judicial Institute on Monday. However, some sources claimed he was directed to appear in the Villa where he was handed a letter to sign for his resignation.
THE ONE-YEAR JOURNEY ARRIVED ON MONDAY AND IGBO CARD
Daily Trust gathered that the move to get Muhammad out of his seat was planned long ago and was spearheaded by a senior cabinet official and head of a security establishment. They also co-opted senior officials of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in the plan.
A source at the NJC said the plan was hatched late last year but was put on hold until after the retirement of Justice Mary Odili who could have only served as the CJN for less than a year had Muhammad resigned before she left.
The idea was said to have been hinged on the ex-CJN’s deteriorating health condition.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, who spoke to Daily Trust on the condition of anonymity, said the ex-CJN was forced to resign on two grounds – the letter collectively written against him by 14 Supreme Court justices, and “certain issues of financial impropriety.”
He said there was the veiled issue of ill-health, which has long been known by many judicial stakeholders but the ex-CJN was left to continue in the position till December 2023, when he was due to retire.
“His condition became so obvious when his supporting staff were behind most of the correspondences, which they preface with ‘I have been directed’,” he said.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Another source close to the ex-CJN, who craved anonymity, said Muhammad was fetched from his house Sunday night to an unknown destination.
“On arrival, he was presented with a letter of resignation and they demanded that he signed the letter. He was told it was from the president and he obliged them based on that. He was not allowed to make any consultation, including even with his family,” he said.
THE 14 JUDGES
According to Daily Trust , another source at the Supreme Court said Muhammad had suffered serious health challenges making it difficult to perform his day-to-day functions, including sitting on cases and attending to files.
He said the situation was partly responsible for the crisis in the court, which led to the letter recently leaked by the 14 judges.
“During the past Ramadan, the president invited members of the Judiciary to the Villa for breaking of fast but he (Muhammad) scheduled a visit to Kaduna State at the same time, and when he was reminded, he said he was not aware though he was earlier told,” the source said.
14 justices of the Supreme Court had in a recent letter on June 21, which Justice Muhammad was forced to react to, accused him of failing to properly administer the apex court.
“Your Lordship with all due respect, this is the peak of the degeneration of the court; it is the height of decadence, and clear evidence of the absence of probity and moral rectitude,” they wrote.
“Your Lordship, this act alone portends imminent danger to the survival of this court and the judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting to extinction.”
Reacting to the report, the spokesman for the former CJN, Ahuruaka Isah said the issues were not brought to his knowledge in his capacity as the spokesperson.
Following Muhammad’s resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday swore in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the second in the Supreme Court ranking, as the acting CJN.
President Buhari in his swearing address said: “Ordinarily, he was scheduled to retire from the Supreme Court on the last day of 2023. Unfortunately, as no man is infallible, ill health has cut short Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian Judiciary at this time.
“I am therefore constrained to accept his retirement, albeit with mixed feelings. Much as one may wish that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammed Tanko is able to fully serve his term in office, it presupposes that he is able to perform the functions of the office without let, hindrance, or any form of disability.
“Nigeria’s Judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammed judiciously exercised the judicial powers of the federation. His era witnessed several landmarks, jurisprudential and policy decisions by the Supreme Court, and by extension other courts established by the constitution.
“CJN Tanko dealt firmly with the issue of reckless and indiscriminate grant of ex-parte orders that was assuming serious dimensions.”
President Buhari also confered on the now resigned Justice Tanko the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.
Reacting to the national honour, Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria said, “I’m not exactly certain what qualifies our recently retired Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammad for the very high national Honour of GCON. The man retired under a cloud. His tenure was spectacularly undistinguished. Nigeria’s judiciary is corrupt and needs to be cleaned up.”