Nigeria: We Suspended Chief Judge, We Didn't Remove Her - Osun Speaker

21 November 2023

The Osun State Speaker, during an emergency plenary, said the suspension was based on series of petitions received by the assembly against the Chief Judge.

The Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Adewale Egbedun, says the assembly has no intention to encroach on the powers of the National Judicial Council (NJC) by the suspension of the state's Chief Judge, Adepele Ojo.

Mr Egbedun, in a statement by his media aide, Olamide Tiamiyu, on Monday in Osogbo, the state capital, said the assembly was only performing its constitutional duties.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the assembly had on 16 November, passed a resolution for the suspension of the Chief Judge (CJ) over alleged corruption, abuse of powers, among others.

The assembly, carefully avoiding the use of the word "suspend", rather asked the Chief Judge to "step aside."

But the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has argued that neither the governor nor the House of Assembly has the power to suspend a Chief Judge without the input of the NJC either in the form of "step aside" or under any other guise.

Mr Egbedun, during an emergency plenary on Monday, said the suspension was based on series of petitions received by the assembly against the CJ.

He said the petitions accused the Chief Judge of corruption, gross misconduct and abuse of office.

The assembly also advised the governor to appoint the next most senior judge in the state as the acting CJ.

On the same day, Governor Ademola Adeleke, in a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, approved the suspension of the CJ.

The governor also announced the appointment of David Afolabi as the acting CJ with immediate effect.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Afolabi rejected the appointment as it did not follow the due process, which should involve an input of the NJC.

However, in another statement on Sunday, the state government said the governor had neither removed the CJ nor appointed anyone in acting capacity.

The statement by Kolapo Alimi, the commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, said the governor had only forwarded the resolution of the assembly and recommendations for an acting appointment to the Chief Justice of the Federation for his action.

The Speaker, however, said on Monday that the assembly was fulfilling its constitutional duty of exposing corruption as stipulated in sections 128 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Mr Egbedun said that that the assembly received several petitions against the Chief Judge.

He said that the assembly would have been negligent and in breach of its constitutional responsibilities, if it had ignored the petitions.

Allegations against Chief Judge

According to him, some of the allegations against the CJ include diversion of the funds for the state's judiciary library, and diversion of the robe allowance of other judges of the state High Court, amounting to N5 million.

The Speaker also said that the CJ was accused of indiscriminate suspension of judicial staff members without going through the Judicial Service Commission and diversion of their salaries.

He said the CJ was also accused of diversion of revenue due to the government from electronic affidavits through the sole appointment of a consultant.

"In this case, the consultant makes N1,000 on an affidavit as against just N250 that is being remitted to the state coffers," he said.

Mr Egbedun said the assembly was aware of the position of the Nigerian Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court in various similar cases.

He said that the governor and the assembly could not remove a Chief Judge from office without the participation of the National Judicial Council.

The speaker urged commentators to be cautious in their utterances, as they might convey the misconception that the assembly had removed or intended to remove the CJ without the involvement of the National Judicial Council.

Mr Egbedun also said that the assembly was not in anyway listed as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the CJ at the National Industrial Court, Ibadan.

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