President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday swore in Olukayode Ariwoola as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
This is sequel to the abrupt resignation of his predecessor, Tanko Muhammad, on health grounds.
President Buhari used the swearing in ceremony attended by Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Justices of the Supreme Court, and other senior Nigeria government officials, to extol the virtues of the outgoing CJN.
The President said CJN Tanko dealt firmly with the issue of reckless and indiscriminate grant of ex-parte Orders that was assuming serious dimensions, adding that history will be kind to him for his modest contributions to Nigeria’s Judiciary, the strengthening of our democracy and national development.
“In line with the custom of decorating Chief Justices of Nigeria with the second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON), and upon the advice of the Council of State in that regard, as his Lordship CJN I. Tanko Muhammed is taking a bow from the Supreme Court, I hereby bestow on him the National Honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON),” President Buhari said.
He said the occasion is an opportune time for him to assure the Nigerian Judiciary of his administration’s commitment towards ensuring the independence of the Judiciary.
“We shall uphold the Constitutional provisions on the Rule of Law and the principles of Separation of Powers,” President Buhari said.
Citing the circumstances that led to the resignation of CJN Tanko while swearing in Ariwoola as the successor, President Buhari said, “In the circumstances, and as nature abhors a vacuum, I hereby invite Honourable Olukayode Ariwoola JSC, being the next most Senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to come forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an Acting Capacity, pursuant to Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
Mr Ariwoola, born on August 22, 1958, was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2011. He was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2011.
The Iseyin, Oyo State born Justice had, prior to his appointment to the highest bench of the land served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal between 2005 and 2011.
Before his elevation to the Court of Appeal bench in 2011, he served as a judge of the High Court of Oyo State, a position he was appointed to in 1992 from private legal practice.
Mr Ariwoola started his education in his home town Iseyin at the Local Authority Demonstration School, Oluwole in Iseyin Local government of Oyo State between 1959 and 1967.
He was in the Muslim Modern School in the same town between 1968 and 1969 before proceeding to Ansar-Ud-Deen High School, Saki in Oyo North of Oyo State.
He studied law at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Osun State from where he bagged his Bachelor of Laws degree with honours in July 1980.
He was called to the Nigeria bar and got enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a Solicitor and Advocate soon thereafter.
His predecessor, CJN Tanko was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2006, sworn in on the 8th of January 2007, and became the Chief Justice of Nigeria in acting capacity on 25th January 2019. He became the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council on Wednesday, 24th July 2019.
“Ordinarily, he was scheduled to retire from the Supreme Court on the last day of 2023. Unfortunately, as no man is infallible, ill-health has cut short Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian Judiciary at this time.
“I am therefore constrained to accept his retirement, albeit with mixed-feelings. Much as one may wish that the Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammed Tanko is able to fully serve his term in office, it presupposes that he is able to perform the functions of the Office without let, hindrance or any form of disability,”President Buhari said of the outgoing CJN.
According to President Buhari, Nigeria’s Judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammed judiciously exercised the Judicial powers of the Federation.
“His era witnessed several landmark, jurisprudential and policy decisions by the Supreme Court, and by extension other Courts established by the Constitution,”he said.
Speaking on the relevance of harmonious working relationships, the President said, “Under a constitutional democracy like ours, government powers and responsibilities are clearly allocated and shared among the three tiers; the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The three organs must work harmoniously and optimally in accordance with their respective Constitutional mandates.”
he used the occasion to admonish the Justices of the Supreme Court to always remain faithful, bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to remain steadfastly committed to the Oath of Allegiance which they all subscribed to, as contained in the 7th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
On the task ahead, President Buhari said, “Our Nation is approaching a critical general election in 2023, the Judiciary must not do anything to fail the ordinary people of Nigeria which may make them lose confidence in the Judiciary.”