NIGERIAN JUDICIARY HAS BECOME SOMETHING ELSE, RTD SUPREME COURT JUDGE
Retired Justice Dattijo said the Nigerian judicial system has completely transformed from what it used to be when he joined over 40 years ago.
Datijjo made this submission while speaking at a valedictory court session organised in his honour by the Supreme Court on Friday, October 27, 2023.
The Niger State-born jurist, who spent 47 years in active judicial service, bowed out of the apex court bench, having attained 70 years of statutory retirement age.
His criticism comes barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court struck out the petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as well as Peter Obi and the Labour Party against the victory of President Bola Tinubu’s victory.
Dattijo was rumoured to have pulled out of the seven-member panel of justices selected to deliver judgment on the electoral dispute. Meanwhile, he condemned the composition of the panel as put together by the CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola.
He attributed the bastardised image of the judiciary to the concentration of judicial officers’ appointments in the hands of the CJN. He claimed that appointments have been polluted by political, selfish and sectional interests.
“As presently structured, the CJN is Chairman of the National Judicial Commission, which oversees both the appointment and discipline of judges. He is equally the chair of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the National Judicial Institute, and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee that appoints Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
“My considered opinion: the oversight functions of these bodies should not rest on an individual alone. A person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely.
“As chair of the NJC, FJSC, NJI, and LPPC, appointments as council, board, and commitment members are at his pleasure. He neither confers with fellow justices nor seeks their counsel or input on any matter related to these bodies; he has both the final and the only say.
“The CJN has the power to appoint 80 per cent of members of the council and 60 per cent of members of FJSC. The same applies to NJI and LPPC,” Dattijo said.
The jurist stressed that it was owing to allegations of corruption and perversion of justice that informed then-President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to order the invasion of homes and arrest of some judges in 2016.
“Not done, in 2019 the government accosted, arrested and arraigned the incumbent Chief Justice before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged underhand conduct.
“With his retirement negotiated, he was eventually left off the hook. “In 2022, a letter signed by all other justices of the Supreme Court, including the current Chief Justice, the aggrieved protested against the shabby treatment meted to them by the head of the court and the Chief Registrar.
“In the event, his lordship Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad disengaged ostensibly on grounds of ill-health.“My lords, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen, it is obvious that the judiciary I am exiting from is far from the one I voluntarily joined and desired to serve and be identified with. The institution has become something else,” Justice Dattijo lamented.