NBA knocks Adeleke, Osun lawmakers for suspending chief judge

Ademola Adeleke Nurudeen Jackson

The suspension of Oyebola Ojo, the Chief Judge of Osun State, by the state government has been condemned by the Nigerian Bar Association.

Justice Ojo was asked to step aside by the House of Assembly at plenary on Thursday, awaiting the conclusion of the inquiry into her.

Following the assembly’s approval of the resolution, Justice Olayinka Afolabi was named acting chief judge by the state’s governor, Ademola Adeleke.

However, Ojo’s suspension was carried out against the National Industrial Court’s ruling in Ibadan, which barred Adeleke from taking her out.

In a statement released on Friday by its National Publicity Secretary, Akorede Lawal, the NBA condemned the government’s actions and stated that her removal was illegal.

He called the governor’s and state lawmakers’ actions an unjustified attack on the judiciary intended to intimidate the state’s arm of government.

“The NBA unequivocally condemns this unlawful action by the Osun State Government,” the statement said in part. The state government’s actions constitute a violation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 Constitution (as amended) and an abuse of the rule of law.

“In very vivid terms, the actions of Governor Adeleke and the Osun State House of Assembly are unwarranted assaults on the judiciary and aimed at intimidation.

“The NBA wishes to categorically state that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are not ambiguous as to the way and manner a Chief Judge of a state could be removed from office. Certainly, a state House of Assembly resolution for a Chief Judge to ‘step aside’ s unknown to the law of our land.”

Citing the case between Nganjiwa and FRN,  he said a Chief Judge cannot be removed without the involvement of the National Judicial Council.

” Furthermore, the law has since been settled in Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR-43391 (CA) that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and determined by the NJC.

“Specifically, the Supreme Court in Elelu-Habeeb & Anor v AG Federation & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (Pt 1318) 423 has clearly stated that the Chief Judge of a state cannot be removed under any guise including the infamous ‘step aside style’ by the Osun State Government without recourse to the NJC, ” the statement added.

Additionally, he chastised the Osun administration for disobeying the court’s order to prevent the removal of the CJ.

“The Osun State Government chose to ignore the lawful order of interim injunction granted by the National Industrial Court sitting in Ibadan, which restrained the Governor of Osun State from interfering with the office of the Chief Judge of Osun State,” the statement continued. “This further worries and troubles the NBA.”

“This is untoward, coming from a democratically elected state government. All decisions of court must be obeyed and complied with until they are set aside by a superior court of competent jurisdiction.”

Lawal said the NBA has resolved not to recognise Justice Afolabi as the acting CJ of the state.

He vowed that the association would stop at nothing to ensure the decision of the state government does not stand.

Lawal said,  “The NBA’s position is anchored on the constitutional doctrine of separation of power and the independence of the judiciary. The tenure of a judicial officer can not and should not be subject to the mood of politicians.

“To this extent, the NBA and its members shall not recognise Hon. Justice Olayinka Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun State, because the provisions of the law must be complied with strictly, in the removal of, and/or appointment of the Chief Judge of Osun State.

“The NBA shall take all necessary steps to ensure this impunity and brazen abuse of office does not stand!”

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