The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) expresses deep concern over the reported and purported removal of the Chief Judge of Osun State, Hon. Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo, by Governor Ademola Adeleke. The Governor allegedly acted based on a resolution from the Osun State House of Assembly, requesting the Chief Judge to step aside pending an investigation into misconduct allegations, abuse of power, corruption, and disregard for the rule of law.
The NBA vehemently condemns this action, considering it a violation of the rule of law and a clear breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The Association strongly asserts that the Governor’s and the State House of Assembly’s actions are an unwarranted assault on the judiciary, with evident intentions of intimidation.
It is crucial to emphasize that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution clearly outline the legal procedures for removing a Chief Judge from office. The resolution for a Chief Judge to “step aside” by a State House of Assembly is deemed unlawful under the Nigerian legal framework.
Referencing established legal precedents, such as Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR-43391 (CA) and Elelu-Habeeb & Anor v. AG Federation & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (Pt 1318) 423, the NBA underscores that any misconduct allegations against a judicial officer must be reported to and determined by the National Judicial Council (NJC). The Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Chief Judge of a State cannot be removed, including through the unconventional “step aside” approach, without recourse to the NJC.
The NBA expresses further concern that, in pursuing this alleged removal, the Osun State Government ignored a lawful interim injunction from the National Industrial Court sitting in Ibadan, which restrained the Governor from interfering with the office of the Chief Judge.
The Nigerian Bar Association emphasizes the importance of adhering to court decisions until they are set aside by a superior court of competent jurisdiction, regardless of political sentiments. The NBA underscores its position based on the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. Judicial appointments and removals should strictly adhere to legal provisions and not be subject to political whims.
In light of these developments, the NBA and its members declare their non-recognition of Hon. Justice Olayinka Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun State. The Association commits to taking all necessary steps to ensure accountability and prevent what it deems an impunity and brazen abuse of office from prevailing.
Akorede Habeeb Lawal,
National Publicity Secretary, NBA
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