NBA rejects Adeleke’s Acting CJ, Osun shuts down 

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has kicked against the suspension of the Chief Judge of Osun State, Justice Oyebola Ojo by Governor Ademola Adeleke.

The Osun State House of Assembly on Thursday recommended suspension of the CJ after which Adeleke approved the recommendation and directed that Justice Yinka Afolabi be sworn in to acting capacity.

However, the NBA through its National Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Akorede Lawal in a statement, yesterday morning, said it would not recognize anyone as Acting CJ.

The association described the action of the state government as illegal, breach of rule of law and assault against the judiciary coming from a democratically elected governor.

He noted that “The action of the State Government is an abuse of the rule of law and a desecration of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

The statement reads: “In very vivid terms, the actions of Governor Adeleke and the Osun State House of Assembly are unwarranted assault 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” is unknown to the law of our land.

“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 National Judicial Council (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 NBA is further worried and troubled that in going about its unlawful endeavour, 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.

“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. 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 cannot 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.

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

However, the state government on Friday denied the claims that Justice Ojo was suspended by Governor Adeleke.

Adeleke had earlier directed his deputy, Kola Adewusi, to swear in Justice Yinka Afolabi in acting capacity at the Exco’s Lounge, Governor’s office by 10 am yesterday.

Findings by reporters revealed that the swearing in ceremony ordered by Adeleke could not hold due to procedural hiccups encountered by the executive arm.

The Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, confirmed Friday that the swearing in ceremony for the acting CJ could not be held.

He said the state government was waiting for the decision of the National Judicial Council (NJC) after the body was notified of the suspension of the CJ.

Alimi said: “The deputy governor just returned from Abuja this evening. He was directed to inform the NJC of the resolution of the Assembly on the development. A letter has been sent to NJC, we are waiting for the directive of NJC before further action.

“The swearing-in could not hold. There is a vacuum in the third arm of government because the woman has been asked to step aside. But notwithstanding the vacuum, the NJC has been notified. If there is any vacuum, it is because of NJC.”

Reacting to the development, the coalition of civil society groups in Osun State under the aegis of The Osun Masterminds, through its Executive Director, Prof. Wasiu Oyedokun-Alli, kicked against the removal of CJ, warning that Justice Yinka Afolabi must not avail himself for swearing in to denigrate the judicial institution.

Reacting, the Socio – Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to sue the Osun State governor if the suspension is not reversed.

SERAP in a post on its official “X” handle, @SERAPNigeria, said: “Osun State Governor Ademola Adeleke must immediately reverse his apparently unlawful removal of Adepele Ojo as the Chief Judge of Osun State. This vicious cycle of authoritarian attacks on the rule of law must stop. We’ll see in court if this illegality is not reversed.“

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