In a stunning twist, the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court have been rocked by a retiring figure, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad. After an illustrious 47-year career, Justice Muhammad didn’t hold back during his valedictory session. He aimed his concerns squarely at the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
Justice Muhammad raised alarming issues, accusing the Chief Justice of abusing his powers. He argued that the current structure of the judiciary places an undue amount of authority in the hands of the CJN, enabling him to make unilateral decisions without consulting his fellow justices. He expressed concerns over the CJN’s extensive roles as Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), the National Judicial Institute (NJI), and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), suggesting that such concentrated power could foster abuse and corruption.
Furthermore, Justice Muhammad criticized the lack of geographical diversity on the Supreme Court bench, particularly the deliberate delay in filling vacancies in specific regions. He contended that the excessive powers vested in the CJN played a significant role in this issue. He lamented the absence of North Central representation on the Supreme Court due to his retirement and highlighted the South East’s loss of representation due to previous retirements.
Justice Muhammad also voiced concerns about the composition of panels hearing appeals related to the presidential election. He emphasized the importance of diversity and regional representation in such pivotal cases.
In addition to these issues, the retiring justice drew attention to problems surrounding funding and the deteriorating welfare of judicial officers. He pointed out salary discrepancies between the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and the justices as an example of the challenges the judiciary faces.
In his parting words, Justice Muhammad lamented the current state of the judiciary, comparing it to the institution he had joined decades ago. His remarks have cast a shadow over the Supreme Court, prompting questions about the balance of power, regional representation, and the overall health of the judicial system.
During the valedictory session, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, paid tribute to the retiring justice, commending his fearless and honest approach to judicial matters. With Justice Muhammad’s departure, the Supreme Court bench has been further reduced to 10 members, marking a significant turning point in the court’s history.