Ahead Edo, Ondo elections: Ariwoola warns against conflicting judgements, swears in 22 Appeal Court Justices, 12 in FCT High Court

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola has charged the newly sworn in 22 Justices of the Appeal Court to hear all matters brought before them and adjudicate according to the laws of the land. 

The CJN also told the judicial officials to carry out their  “duties more dispassionately, discretionally, and transparently.”

Ariwoola spoke while presiding at the swearing-in ceremony of both the new Court of Appeal Justices and some 12 others also inaugurated as Justices of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, at the Supreme Court  Wednesday in Abuja.

His warning came against the backdrop of litigations that are likely to come up after the Ondo and Edo elections billed for September and November this year.

 He said: “In the next couple of months, we shall be having two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, respectively.

 “As usual, the Courts will be besieged with plethora of petitions. It is our statutory duty to hear all matters that come before us and adjudicate according to the laws of the land.”

The CJN said: “My Lords, you have just taken the oath to pledge your allegiance to the dictates of the Almighty God and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

“It is a solemn pledge and commitment to good conduct in the course of your adjudication, especially as senior judicial officers in the appellate court. 

 “The number of Justices that we have just sworn-in today is quite unprecedented in the recent history of the Court of Appeal. The last time we had a large number like this was on Monday, 28 June, 2021, when 18 Justices were sworn-in. That was preceded by that of Monday, 5th November, 2012 when 12 Justices were inaugurated.

 “Today’s ceremony is an indication of the perilous times that we are currently in, which has resulted in an upsurge in litigation. 

 “Several unfathomable crimes are being committed in the country, aside from the usual political matters that have made litigations to go on alarming rise. 

“No Court in the land is spared of this litigation deluge, as it were. We are constantly on our toes and the dockets are ever increasing in response to the challenges of the time.  This underscores the fact that Nigeria is fast emerging as a frontline crime-infested country that we all have to urgently curtail.

 “The enormous task of cleaning the Augean stable rests squarely on Your Lordships. So, you must hastily fasten your belt and roll up your sleeves to face the challenges head-on. In other words, you should hit the ground speeding at a supersonic velocity; and not just running.” 

 “You must redouble your pace to catch up with the expectations of the sprawling community of litigants. As judicial officers, you have a divine mandate on earth that you must discharge with unveiled honesty and sincerity. You must give good account of yourselves to justify your elevation to the Court of Appeal.

 “In the next couple of months, we shall be having two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, respectively. As usual, the Courts will be besieged with Plethora of petitions. It is our statutory duty to hear all matters that come before us and adjudicate according to the laws of the land. 

“We must not falter; and we must not tread the path of infamy. Yes, it is true that we cannot please everyone through our actions and work, but with the right application of the law and the Constitution of the land, which we all have collectively pledged to uphold, we can go a long way to do those things that our conscience will be very proud of; and the generality of the Nigerian citizens will equally be happy about.

 “Every position we attain in life always avails us that unique opportunity to do something novel and impactful, especially if there was any previous act of wrongdoing or misapplication of discretion. 

 “With Your Lordships’ elevation to the higher Bench today, you have to be very mindful of the enormous confidence the public is now reposing in you vis-a-vis theis expectations. 

“Like we often say, to whom much is given, much is expected. Your Lordships must not rest on your oars, as the onus now lies more heavily on you to discharge your judicial duties more dispassionately, discretionally, and transparently. 

 “So, you must, individually and collectively, guide your loins to do more to earn lasting trust and integrity. Your conduct and disposition must tally with the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of the citizenry,” he added.

…Warns on conflicting judgements

Speaking on the spate of conflicting judgements by some judicial officers, Ariwoola cautioned against the development, warning that any erring judge will be sanctioned.

He said: “I have made it known at different fora that we have been treated to an unpalatable cocktail of misleading and conflicting judgments as well as frivolous interlocutory orders emanating from courts of coordinate jurisdictions, which have literally attempted to make a mockery of our judicial system and flagrantly desecrate the revered Temple of Justice. 

 “Several cases of such abound across the length and breadth of the country. This is, largely, an embarrassment to our jurisprudence, and we will never handle it with levity. Punitive measures must definitely be meted out to such erring Judges. 

“We have already activated the process of reining-in such errant Judges with a view to making them face the consequence of their despicable and odious conduct.

 “As Judicial Officers, we have to continually remind Ourselves the fact that we are not occupying our respective positions to serve ourselves, but the Nigerian masses; and the best way we can serve them is by doing what will make them feel safe in our hands and also trust us to always deliver the right judgments that will not be tainted by sentiments, emotions or other clandestine considerations.

“Your Lordships for making the list and wish you the best that you can achieve in this strategic position you now occupy.”