By turning himself in and showing open support to the G5 governors at a dinner organized by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, has violated Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for judicial officers, says the spokesperson Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Management Committee, Sen. Dino Melaye.
Stating that the Chief Justice is now a suspect who must face trial for violation of the code of conduct, Melaye said Ariwoola dragged himself into the arena of partisan politics by his action by making pronouncements that desecrated his exalted office.
Melaye also stated that the Chief Justice ought to remain neutral on issues of political considerations but that sitting at a dinner table with Wike, makes him liable to violation of his oath of neutrality.
In a statement titled ‘The Chief Justice Of Nigeria Has Become A Suspect Awaiting Trial’, made available to journalists in Abuja, Tuesday, Melaye said the Chief Justice’s action was proof that the judiciary had been compromised.
Melaye’s statement reads: “The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who has just demonstrated his familiarity with the workings of G5 Governors has by seeking to recruit members into that group turned himself into a suspect, who only cannot be trusted with fair dispensation of justice in Nigeria, but a Chief Judicial Officer who has become tainted and unfit to superintend over the administration of Justice in Nigeria.
“Graver still, the descent of the Chief Justice of the Federation into the political arena is a gross and indefensible violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, section 5 of which states as follows:
“Right to freedom of expression: 5. A Judge, like any other citizen, is entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly; but in exercising such rights, a Judge shall always conduct himself in such manner as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. Accordingly, a Judge shall act with such restraint as is necessary to:
“a. maintain public confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary;
“b. avoid involvement in public discussion or discourse if his or her involvement could reasonably undermine confidence in his or her impartiality;
“c. avoid such occasions and circumstances where such involvement may unnecessarily expose the Judge to political attacks or be inconsistent with the dignity of a Judicial officer; and/or
“d. adhere strictly to political silence.
“Flowing from the above, the first thing that jumps out in 5(d) is the indiscretion of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola having failed to adhere to political silence. Rather he chose to be a recruiting agent for a distinct and unmistakable political group.
“Furthermore, the Chief Justice of Nigeria has by his pronouncement desecrated the dignity of the Judiciary, demonstrated partiality, eroded public confidence, exposed the Judiciary to political attacks and acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the character, colour and calling of his exalted office. In fact, he broke all the rules in this section. This represents a sad irony. It is a case of the gatekeeper carting away the goods in his custody.
“We are worried by this development, as this has confirmed the suspicion in certain circles that the Judiciary has compromised its independence and is now dependent on certain interests, particularly in the Executive Branch. One can imagine a scenario in which the group the Chief Justice of Nigeria has patronised so openly appears before him with another party in a dispute. Where he presides bias cannot be ruled out and where he does not preside his influence on other Judges cannot be discounted.
“With the scandalous conduct of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, it has become expedient and a matter of honour that he resigns from the exalted office that he has demonstrably abused. If he chooses to prolong his stay in office, to continue to serve the interest of his political friends, he may choose to recuse himself as Chairman of the National Judicial Council, turn himself in as a suspect, proceed on leave and allow for a thorough evaluation of his conduct in line with the provisions of Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
“Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has a duty to save the Judiciary, himself and Nigeria’s democracy.”