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Retired Justice Dattigo Exposes Abuse Of Power By CJN, Dirty Dealings In Supreme Court

The just retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad has warned that the deliberate exclusion…

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Justice Musa Dattijo

The just retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad has warned that the deliberate exclusion of South East and North Central geo-political zones on the bench of the Apex Court is dangerous to the general survival and development of the country.

VerseNews reports that he particularly opined that the hearing of appeals against the last presidential election by the Supreme Court at the exclusion of the two geo- political zones was unpalatable and unacceptable to the interest of true justice.

Justice Muhammad, who issued the warning on Friday in Abuja at a valedictory court session held in his honour, also lamented the depletion in the bench of the Apex Court and joined others in the call for urgent replacement.

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Besides, Justice Muhammad, who was the second most senior Justice on the bench of the Apex Court, called for the reduction of the powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to prevent abuse of office.

Speaking at the occasion, the retired justice pointed out that, “to ensure justice and transparency in presidential appeals from the lower court, all geopolitical zones are required to participate in the hearing.

“It is therefore dangerous for democracy and equity for the two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians. This is not what our laws envisaged.”

It will be recalled that the Apex Court on Thursday delivered its verdict in two separate appeals filed by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).

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The seven-man panel of the Apex Court led by Justice John Inyang Okoro had dismissed the two appeals on grounds that they lacked merit.

While Tinubu is from the South-west geopolitical zone of the country, Atiku and Obi who came second and third respectively are from the North-east and South-east geopolitical zones of the country.

Speaking further, Muhammad noted that with the passing away of Justice Chima Centus Nweze on July 29, 2023, “the South East no longer has any representation at the Supreme Court”, adding that neither has there been any appointment to fill the vacuum created by the death of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of South East region since July 7, 2021.

While observing that no one had expected the sudden death of late Justice Nweze, the newly retired justice lamented that, “it has been two years and seven months since the previous justice from the South East died and no appointment was made”.

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Besides the South East, Muhammad also stated that with his retirement on Friday, the North Central will also now suffer the same fate as that of the South East, since no replacement was made for the region two years ago following the retirement of Justice Ejembi Eko and Justice Sidi Bage, some years ago.

“Also, it was clear ab-initio that I will be leaving the court this day on attaining the statutory age of 70. It is then not in doubt that there has been sufficient time for suitable replacements to have been appointed. This is yet to occur”, he said.

While observing that as at today, only four geopolitical zones – the South-west, South-south, North-west and North-east are represented in the Supreme Court with the Southwest and Northwest fully represented, he queried why appropriate steps have not been timeously taken to fill outstanding vacancies in the apex court.

“It is evident that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the court is deliberate. It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the responsible exercise of same”, he said.

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According to him, a situation where the CJN has absolute powers over the National Judicial Council (NJC), Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), National Judicial Institute (NJI), the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee ( LPPC), that appoints Senior Advocate of Nigeria, can only lead to corruption.

“As chair of the NJC, FJSC, NJI and LPPC, appointments as council, board and committee members are at his pleasure.

“He neither confers with fellow Justices nor seeks their counsel or input on any matter relating to the bodies. He has both the final and the only say. The CJN has power to appoint 80 percent of members of the council and 60 percent of members of FJSC. The same applies to NJI and LPPC.

“Such enormous powers are effortlessly abused. This needs to change. Continued denial of the existence of this threatening anomaly weakens effective judicial oversight in the country “, he said.

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While recalling the circumstances that led to the pre-matured retirement of the two immediate past CJNs, Muhammad, said that, “it is instructive to enquire what the judiciary also does with its allocations. Who is responsible for the expenditure? An unrelenting searchlight needs to be beamed to unravel how the sums are expended.”

Besides, while he pointed out that the present government has allocated additional N35 billion to the earlier N130 billion budgeted by the former President Muhammadu Buhari for the judiciary, he stated that, notwithstanding the phenomenal increases in the sums appropriated and released to the judiciary, justices and officers’ welfare and the quality of service the judiciary render have continued to decline.

Besides, he described as “unjust and embarrassing “a situation where the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court earns more than the Justices.”

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According to him, the Chief Registrar “earns N1.2 million per month” while Justices “take home N751,000 in a month”.

He said, “That the unjust and embarrassing salary difference between the Justices and the Chief Registrar still abides remains intriguing to say the least. Valedictory session after valedictory session, lapses and challenges that should be nipped are restated to no avail.

“Why the silence and seeming contentment?”

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