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Swearing-in of new CJN & mockery of rule of law in Nigeria

By Barr. Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu

The Rule of Law simply put is the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. Rule of Law is the beauty of democracy. Anything other than this is authoritarianism, dictatorial and consequently, undemocratic.

When President Muhammadu Buhari was contesting for Presidency in 2015, many Nigerians and indeed the international community, were sceptical about his ability to operate under a democratic system, due to his antecedents as a military Head of State who was a law unto himself. However, his perceived hard stance against corruption eroded these fears and he was given the much needed support to be elected President.

When he assumed office on May 29, 2015, the President made it crystal clear that he belongs to everyone and to nobody. He also declared that his administration will abide by the Constitution and will not tolerate corruption.

However, it is yet to be seen how the President has fulfilled these promises because there has been several cases where he reportedly took unconstitutional actions and corrupt government officials were either tolerated or brazenly shielded from investigation.

One of those obvious cases is the swearing-in of the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad. To know if the President acted according to Rule of Law in this appointment, one has to first of all, find out if the CJN is qualified to occupy that position.

I was opportuned to sight a document (attached herewith) which is purported to be the West African Senior School Certificate of Education (WASSCE) and the Degree Certificate of the CJN. If indeed these documents are valid, then it’s a wonder how the CJN got to where he is today.

Firstly, the purported WASSCE result of the CJN shows that he only got credit pass in the following subjects: Islamic Religious Knowledge, History and Hausa.

Then he had ordinary pass in Chemistry and Arabic. Based on the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) requirements, it appears that the CJN wasn’t even qualified for admission to read law ab initio.

The normal JAMB requirement to study law in Nigeria is a minimum of credit passes in any five (5) Arts or Social Science subjects, including English Language and English Literature. Justice Tanko’s purported WASSCE results shows he had only three (3) credit passes in the relevant subjects, excluding English Language and English Literature.

Terminate ate my School Living Certificate – CJN

So how did he gain admission to study law in the first place? Little wonder during his screening by the Senate, the new CJN was surprisingly unable to explain what “technicality” means in our jurisprudence. How can the CJN dispense justice if he is unable to understand and effectively interpret the law?

President Buhari has the powers to appoint a CJN but such powers should be exercised within the armbits of the law. The President ought to have exercised due diligence before putting forward Justice Tanko’s appointment for confirmation .

Based on the foregoing, it appears the appointment of Justice Tanko as CJN is not in accordance with Rule of Law. In the same vein, the Ahmad Lawan led Senate has failed woefully in its oversight function of screening the new CJN before ratifying his appointment. It goes to show that the present Senate Leadership may sadly end up an appendage of the Executive, to the detriment of Nigerians.

It is sad to note that democratic institutions have mysteriously kept quiet in the face of this brazen and vicious rape of Rule of Law and democracy in Nigeria. This portends grave danger for our justice system and our fledgling democracy.

Where is the National Judicial Commission (NJC), Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the press, Civil Society Organisations, political parties and so on. Are they still alive or dead? This country belongs to everyone of us and as a result it is our duty to defend democracy. For if we fail to do so we may end up, on the long run, not even having a country to call our own.

Barr. Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu; bobekene@gmail.com

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