Like a bolt from the blues, the resignation of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the 17th Chief Justice of Nigeria was made public on Monday.
The CJN’s Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, confirmed the resignation to The PUNCH, saying, “The latest information is that the CJN has resigned; I spoke with somebody very close to him and he said he has resigned.”
Though reasons for his resignation are unclear at the moment, Muhammad’s resignation followed quickly on the heels of the allegations of mismanagement of funds levelled against him by 14 justices of the Supreme Court.
The PUNCH had reported that the justices of the apex court, in a joint petition, accused the Bauchi State-born CJN of poor welfare, among other ill-treatment being meted out to them. This is an unprecedented development in Nigeria’s judicial history.
In the leaked petition, the 14 justices accused the CJN of abandoning his responsibilities and diverting funds meant for the running of the Supreme Court.
But the CJN in a statement by his aide, titled, ‘Re: State Of Affairs In The Supreme Court And Demand By Justices Of The Supreme Court’, denied the allegations.
He explained that contrary to claims, the Supreme Court justices were provided with SUVs, cars and accommodation.
“Accommodations are being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get. There is none of the Apex Court Justices without SUV and backup cars. If any of them were purchased but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in the court to take those that bought them up over it,” part of the statement read.
On the allegation that there was no electricity in the courtrooms, the statement said, “The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel is a national problem. The Chief Registrar might have budgeted for N300 per litre but diesel is now selling for over N700 per litre and therefore has to find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there is no way the generator would be put off if the Court is sitting.
“The amendment of court rules is in the process, it has to be critically reviewed to avoid conflict with the constitution and other extant laws. Not all the CJNs have reviewed the rules in the past…”
In its reaction, a civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, in an interview in this newspaper, called on the National Judicial Council and the Code of Conduct Tribunal to probe the corruption allegations levelled against Muhammad.
With his sudden resignation on Monday without seeing to a conclusion the allegations against him, it is obvious that the public’s longing for the outcome of the drawn-out battle between Muhammad and his brother justices will be an attempt in futility.