There seems to be disconnection within Governor Ademola Adeleke’s cabinet as a new directive emerged on Saturday discarding the earlier declaration by the government on the removal of the Chief Judge and appointment of an acting Chief Judge of the state.
The state government on Saturday denied news reports that Governor Adeleke had removed the Chief Judge and appointed an acting Chief Judge, claiming that the Governor had only forwarded the resolution of the House of Assembly and recommendation for an acting appointment to the Chief Justice of the Federation for decision and action.
The state government in a statement signed by Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi said Adeleke “is fully aware of the limit of his powers as well as the responsibilities of the various agencies of government and will therefore not act in any way to violate the constitution and rule of law.”
This reported that the governor in a terse statement signed by his spokesperson, Mallam Olawale Rasheed on Thursday announced the appointment of Justice Olayinka David Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun state.
This is coming some minutes after the governor approved the suspension of Justice Adepele Ojo as the Chief Judge of the state.
This is also on the heels of an ex parte application brought by the CJ, Justice J.D. Peters of the National Industrial Court on Thursday issued a restraining order directing the governor to stop all attempts directed at removing the Chief judge.
Mess in the governor’s cabinet
On Thursday evening, in a statement signed by Rasheed, Governor Adeleke’s spokesperson titled; ‘Governor Adeleke Appoints Justice Olayinka David Afolabi As Acting CJ’ dated 16/11/2023, the governor announced the appointment of acting Chief Judge of Osun state with immediate effect.
The terse statement read, “Governor Ademola Adeleke has appointed Justice Olayinka David Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun state with immediate effect following the approval of the resolution of the House of Assembly.”
In a document sighted by Nigerian Tribune dated November 17, JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION in a document jointly signed by six persons, Osun State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice; Barrister Isola Tewogbade; Barrister Adedunmade Onibokun; Miss Linda Bibilari and Gbadegesin Olajide summoned the Acting CJ to a panel over the allegation of abuse of office, financial misappropriation, disobedience to court orders and corruption in the state judiciary.
The document statement that the suspended CJ should appear before the Commission on Monday, November 20.
This call, according to some experts, is illegal.
However, days after, Adeleke’s government denied appointing an Acting Chief Judge claiming the governor only forwarded the resolution of the House of Assembly and recommendation for an acting appointment to the Chief Justice of the Federation for decision and action.
The state’s commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment on Saturday said “Governor Adeleke has only duly notified the Chief Justice as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in writing about the resolutions of the House of Assembly following a series of petitions made against the sitting Chief Judge of Osun State.
“In the communication, Mr Governor intimated to the CJN of the recommendation of the House that the Chief Judge should step aside and included his own submission for an acting appointment to fill the vacuum while the NJC reviews and decides on the petition.
“To that end, the Governor in the same letter recommended to the CJN, the appointment of the most senior judicial officer, Hon.Justice Olayinka David Afolabi for thorough consideration and further processing by the same NJC through the CJN
“We urge the public to note that while the House of Assembly recommended the appointment of a replacement to the Governor in its resolution, the Governor however toed the line of law by writing the CJN on the entire development and submitting all materials for NJC as mandated national agency.
“We therefore wish to state categorically that Governor Adeleke has not appointed any judicial official as Acting Chief Judge and nobody has been sworn in as Acting Chief Judge of Osun state.
“Governor Adeleke is a man of due process and rule of law with a deep level of respect for the bar and the bench, the NJC and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
How Adeleke sacked Chief Judge
On Thursday Justice Adepele Ojo dragged Governor Adeleke to court over alleged attempts to remove her from office. Ruling on an ex parte application brought by the CJ, Justice J.D. Peters of the National Industrial Court on Thursday issued a restraining order directing the governor to stop all attempts directed at removing the Chief judge.
The judge granted “an order of interim injunction is issued restraining the Defendants by themselves or their agents or privies however so-called from interfering with removing. reversing or terminating the appointment and conditions of service of the Applicant as the Hon. Chief Judge of Osun State including but not limited to salaries and other pecuniary benefits pending the determination of the interlocutory application.”
It also gave an order “mandating the 4th defendant (Accountant General) to continue to pay the salary, entitlements, emoluments and other benefits and moneys the applicant is entitled to as the Hon. Chief Judge of Osun State pending the determination of the interlocutory application.”
Later on the same day, Governor Adeleke approved the resolution of the Osun State House of Assembly asking the Osun State Chief Judg to step aside pending investigation of allegations of misconduct, abuse of power, corruption and disregard for rule of law against her by the House of Assembly.
In the resolution of the Osun Assembly sitting on Thursday, the House resolved that the Executive should be informed of the House resolution and that the next in order of seniority to Justice Adepele Ojo be sworn-in immediately to avoid any vacuum in the third arm of government in Osun State.
The House had earlier resolved as follows:
“Having received various petitions against the Chief Judge of Osun State bothering on gross misconducts, abuse of office, corruption and lack of respect for due process and rule of law, this Honourable House, in performance of its oversight functions and exercise of its investigative powers vested by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) hereby resolved as follows:
“That the Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions and Legal Matters investigate the petitions against the Chief Judge of Osun State, Honourable Justice Adepele Ojo, by inviting the Chief Judge and report to the House within 7 days from today.
“That pending the outcome of the investigation, the Chief Judge of Osun State, Honourable Justice Adepele Ojo should step aside, not for any disciplinary action, but to allow for proper investigation of the allegations
“That while she steps aside pending the investigation, the Executive Governor should immediately swear-in the next judge in order of Seniority as the Acting Chief Judge of Osun State.
“The Executive should immediately notify the National Judicial Council and the State Judicial Service Commission of the resolutions of this House immediately for their awareness.
“That the Clerk of this House should forward the resolutions of this House to the Executive, the National Judicial Council and the State Judicial Service Commission.”
Condemnations trail suspension of CJ
The National Judicial Council has berated the Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, and the state House of Assembly for removing the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Oyebola Ojo, saying they lack the power to suspend or discipline any judge.
A member of the council, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the NJC was the only body that could investigate and recommend sanctions for judges.
The council member said, “A state government cannot discipline, sanction or sack the chief judge of a state without recourse to the NJC. This applies to judges. If they claim they’ve carried the NJC along, they should have waited for the NJC to investigate her.
Speaking with a senior legal expert in the state said the government earlier ‘goofed’ in the manner they played with the removal of the Chief Judge saying this could be the only reason the state government is reversing itself.