From Fred Itua, Abuja
There was pandemonium in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja yesterday, when policemen teargassed and dispersed hundreds of protesters staging a protest to demand for the resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tajudeen Ariwoola, over his alleged partisanship comment recently made in Rivers State.
The protesters, who brandished several placards and banners while marching towards the Federal Ministry of Justice complex to push for an impartial judiciary ahead of the 2023 general elections, ran towards different directions after a contingent of heavily-armed policemen fired several canisters of teargas at them.
Among the inscriptions on the placards were “You are partisan, Ariwoola resign now”; “Judicial politicians will cause us harm”; “Ariwoola is a politician”; “We demand independent judiciary, peaceful 2023 general elections”, and “No more politicians in judicial bodies”, among others.
The protesters, who are members of Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria (CCSN), said the alleged posture by the CJN portends a great danger to the smooth dispensation of justice in case of electoral dispute before, during and after the 2023 general elections.
Speaking during a banquet held in his honour by Governor Nyesom Wike, in Port-Harcourt, recently, the CJN, who hails from Oyo, had reportedly said his host (Governor Wike) was threatening to withdraw Makinde’s wife, who is from Rivers, expressing hope that Makinde would emulate Wike to replicate the good works in his state. The CJN was also reported to have expressed delight that his governor (Seyi Makinde) is in Wike’s camp of G5.
But speaking with newsmen yesterday, before the police swooped on the protesters, spokesperson of the group, Comrade Olayinka Dada, called on the CJN to resign his appointment in the interest of democracy in the country.
Some of the CSOs involved in the protest include Civil Society Forum of Nigeria, Nigeria Youth Development Forum, Democratic Youth Initiative, Forum for Social Justice, Movement for the Development of Democracy, Safeguard Nigeria Movement, Alliance for People’s Welfare, Forward Nigeria Movement, Human Right Crusaders, Defenders of Democracy, Democratic Rights Assembly and Voters Rights Assembly, among others.
“We are out today to save our hard fought democracy. The journey to this point, despite all imperfections and challenges, is no doubt one that cost great countrymen and women their lives. Many people sacrificed their time and lost lives to enthrone this democratic order in Nigeria.
“Seeing the hard fought democracy under threat as we are witnessing now is, nonetheless, a misnomer. Nigerians will resist this affront with all legitimacy of their convictions!
“Few days ago, Nigerians woke up to the reckless partisan interference of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tajudeen Olukayode Ariwoola, in a political dispute capable of making Nigerians distrust the electoral processes leading to the 2023 general elections.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria, in an unholy visitation to Rivers State, alleged to be a bought commissioning exercise, made reckless statements in favour of his new found political friend, Governor Nyesom Wike. The Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria has since analysed his statements at the commissioning, and came to the conclusion that democracy is, indeed, in danger.
“How do we explain that the man saddled with the impartial role of dispensing justice is now on the side of a particular group in a political dispute? Given the fact that 18 political parties are up in the race for the 2023 general elections, we wonder what interest the CJN had in one of the political parties (PDP) leading him to obstruct the impartiality of the judicial arm of government he currently heads.
“Nigerians are at a loss as to the reasons our constitution spelt out the independence of each arm of government. It is worrisome, unpardonable and sinister for the Chief Justice of Nigeria to openly show the ugly side he is affectionately sympathetic to in a political race that has just begun.
“This portends a great danger to the smooth dispensation of justice in case of electoral dispute before, during and after the 2023 general elections. As the saying goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
“From Justice Tajudeen Olukayode Ariwoola’s body language, it is becoming clearer that no party or candidate can get justice in the supreme court he oversees. Nigerians will not watch this overbearing suggestion by the CJN to rob the citizens of the good governance which they have suffered in the last eight years.
“Governor Makinde is a renowned ally of Governor Wike and others in the camp, what is the CJN’s business advocating for them outside the courts? As responsible citizens of this country and the voice of the voiceless, we demand the immediate sack of the CJN, especially now that his amorous political intentions and bias are in the public domain.
“The CJN’S position is, nonetheless, an invitation to anarchy, and we condemn his political romance with political actors in all ramifications. The partisanship displayed with full emotional support by the CJN is evident enough to know that the 2023 elections are already in his courts. He has compromised his office and person.
“In the coming days, should the CJN refuse to resign, our coalition will press for all legitimate means through citizens revolt for him to vacate the exalted, impartial and independent office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“We call on all Nigerians to see this anomaly as a danger enough to truncate citizens’ interest in electing a president of their choice come February, 2023.
“Let the National Judicial Council act now that the CJN has put a stop to the impartiality of the judiciary. Enough is enough,” he said.