There is confusion in the judicial arm of government in Osun State as the Chief Justice’s office remained vacant following Governor Ademola Adeleke’s suspension of Justice Oyebola Ojo.
Recall that despite an order by the National Industrial Court presided over by Justice Dele Peters that Adeleke and three others (Osun Attorney General, State Judicial Service Commission and Accountant General) should not suspend Justice Ojo, the CJ was suspended after recommendation by the Osun State House of Assembly.
In a twist to the saga yesterday, the state government denied claims that Justice Ojo was suspended by Governor Adeleke, further adding to the confusion.
Adeleke had directed his deputy governor, Kola Adewusi, to swear in Justice Yinka Afolabi in acting capacity at the Exco’s Lounge, Governor’s office by 10 am yesterday.
However, findings revealed that the swearing in ceremony ordered by Adeleke could not hold due to procedural hiccups encountered by the executive arm.
The Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, confirmed yesterday that the swearing in ceremony for the acting CJ could not hold.
He said the state government was waiting for the decision of National Judicial Council (NJC) after the body was notified of the suspension of the CJ.
Alimi said: “The deputy governor just returned from Abuja this evening. He was directed to inform the NJC of the resolution of the Assembly on the development. A letter has been sent to NJC, we are waiting for the directive of NJC before further action.
“The swearing-in could not hold. There is a vacuum in the third arm of government because the woman has been asked to step aside. But notwithstanding the vacuum, the NJC has been notified. If there is any vacuum, it is because of NJC.”
Reacting to the development, the coalition of civil society groups in Osun State under the aegis of The Osun Masterminds, through its Executive Director, Prof. Wasiu Oyedokun-Alli, kicked against the removal of CJ, warning that Justice Yinka Afolabi must not avail himself for swearing in to denigrate the judicial institution.
He added: “It is scary to think that the current Osun State House of Assembly is acting with youthful exuberance. The Osun State House of Assembly is quickly turning itself into not just a rubber-stamp Assembly but a willing tool in the hands of the executive, used to legitimise any and every illegality that the executive wants to perpetrate.”
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress (APC), through its chairman, Tajudeen Lawal, described the removal of the CJ as vindictive and unconstitutional.
He said the removal could neither sit nor fly as he called all stakeholders in the state to condemn the action
He said: “If Governor Adeleke and his apparently confused kitchen cabinet members who are thinking for him could not know the danger in inheriting another person’s enemies by staging a war against the Chief Judge on the discreet directive of a man of yesterday who has an axe to grind with the CJ during his inglorious tenure, they should be ready for the debilitating effects of the backlash of their unpopular and illegal action.
“This is the auspicious time for all the patriots in the state to condemn the humiliation of the judiciary by Governor Adeleke whose actions and inactions in the office in about the last one year of his assumption of office have eroded the achievements of his predecessors.”
After a statement by the Osun State Osun State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, admitting the suspension of Justice Ojo, the state government yesterday berated the notion that the Chief Judge was suspended by Governor Ademola Adeleke.
Justice Ojo had approached the National Industrial Court, Ibadan division over alleged plots to remove her, following which the presiding judge, Justice Dele Peters, granted a restraining order against her removal by Governor Adeleke and three others.
Alimi in a statement yesterday noted that the petition and preliminary actions on the embattled Osun State Chief Judge had been sent to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
He affirmed the that Governor Adeleke had not defied any court order, stressing that “the Osun State House of Assembly which confirmed the appointment of Mrs Ojo and asked her to step aside is not a party to any ongoing case or court order.
Alimi said: “It is safe to assert that all that are being posted online are mere stunts as the government is not aware of any pending case at this material moment.
“We also call the attention of the public that the misappropriated money over which investigation is being carried out were appropriated by the State House of Assembly and the body has constitutional right to inquire how money it appropriated was applied.
“The staff of Osun State Judiciary, who are being denied their right by the Chief Judge and some of who joined in the petition are employees of the Osun State Government under the authority of OSHA.
“We re-assure the public that appropriate representation has been made to National Judicial Council over the development and we affirm that the Chief Judge was not suspended by the Governor as being mischievously represented by some sections of the media.”
He added that “the Governor only acted on the resolution of the House. To ensure there is no vacuum, the Governor appointed an Acting Chief Judge, as prescribed by the Constitution in a situation like this. It is therefore the responsibility of the State Assembly to inform the public, NJC, and the Governor about its findings on the conclusion of its investigation, and also make resolutions on the next line of action.