The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola says the Supreme Court’s silence on attacks on its judicial officers must not be mistaken for weakness or cowardice.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declared the president of the Senate Ahmed Lawan as the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC for Yobe North Senatorial District, sacking Bashir Machina earlier recognised by the Federal High Court in Damaturu and Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The judgement had sparked widespread criticism as Mr Lawan, who had unsuccessfully vied for a presidential ticket, did not participate in the primaries earlier conducted in Damaturu, Yobe State.
But the CJN gave the warning in a statement by Festus Akande, the Supreme Court spokesman on Saturday in Abuja.
The statement is in reaction to the recent attacks on the judiciary by some group of persons over some recent political judgments delivered by the apex court.
He warned the public to be mindful of their unwarranted attacks on judicial officers.
“Certainly, every Nigerian citizen has inalienable right to express his or her opinion without any encumbrance but even in the course of expressing such fundamental right, we should be circumspect enough to observe the caution-gate of self-control in order not to infringe on another person’s right.
“Even in a state of emotional disequilibrium, we should be reasonable enough to make a good choice of decent words.
“We have watched with utter dismay some unfortunate events that have been unfolding in the country, particularly within the political landscape, for some days now.
“It is so disheartening to learn that some individuals and groups of persons who ought to know better and even assume the revered positions of role models to a larger proportion of the citizens are now sadly, the very ones flagrantly displaying ignorance and infantilism in the course of defending the indefensible.
“We have made it abundantly clear at different occasions that judicial officers are neither political office holders nor politicians that should be dressed in such robes”.
He noted that courts do not advertise or scout for cases for adjudication; but at the same time, duty-bound to adjudicate on all matters that come before them with a view to giving justice to whoever justice is due, irrespective of status.
“No Court in any clime is a Father Christmas; so, no one can get what he or she didn’t ask for.
“Similarly, all matters are thoroughly analysed and considered based on their merits and not the faces that appear in courts or sentiments that attempt to becloud the sense of reasoning.
“So, for anyone in his or her right frame of mind to insinuate that the justices have been bought over by some unknown and unseen persons is, to say the least, a bizarre expression of ignorance, which definitely has no place in law.
“We are not surprised with the surge of these well-orchestrated verbal assaults on judicial officers across the country at this period of elections”.
According to the him, “it is a thing we are used to and are ever ready to absorb whatever comes our way; but there should be some level of decorum and dignity in what we say and do.
“Politics should not be played without recourse to good conscience and acceptable moral conduct, as everything is evolving globally”.
He said that calling on the CJN to resign or attacking justices that sit on various panels, as exhibited by a faceless group is rather prosaic.
“If political parties fail to organise themselves well by managing their internal wrangling maturely and now chose to bring themselves to the court: we are duty-bound to adjudicate in accordance with the provisions of the law and not the dictates of any individual or deity, as some people would want us to do.
“If political parties conduct themselves well and orderly too, the courts would definitely handle less cases and the political atmosphere will be much healthier than it is currently.
“We shall continue to do our best in discharging our constitutional responsibility to keep the country together and move the nation along the path of peace, progress and development”.
He reiterated that attacks by groups, political parties or individuals under any guise will not deter then but rather boost their resolve to do more for the country.
“It is not only petty but equally very unreasonable for anyone to hurriedly link the CJN to his state of origin and tribe simply because of a particular judgment of the court.
“The major problem of Nigeria has always been the undue emphasis on religion and ethnicity in all our dealings and as long as we continue along that path, progress will remain a mirage.
“As at this moment, over 600 cases have so far gone to court from just party primaries which were conducted by political parties without any encumbrance or interference from any external bodies.
“So, will the political parties or any individual now accuse the court of causing such unpleasant intra-party wrangling that defied all internal conflict resolution mechanisms?
“Most times, some people try as much as possible to disingenuously stand logic on its head to show their level of unimaginable dexterity.
He said that those who have cultivated the unfashionable penchant of always attacking the judiciary over every judgment or ruling should better have a rethink and start channelling such robust energy into some ventures that are more developmental than destructive.
“We are not politicians and should not, by any stroke of imagination, be cast in that mould either.
“Nobody’s interest can ever supersede the interest of everybody. Nigeria is bigger than everyone of us. A word is enough for the wise”, he said.