The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has become aware of the unlawful removal of the Chief Judge of Osun State, Hon. Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo by the Governor of Osun State, Ademola Adeleke. Governor Adeleke purportedly acted upon a resolution of the Osun State House of Assembly “asking the Osun State Chief Judge, Adepele Ojo 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.”
The NBA unequivocally condemns this unlawful action by the Osun State Government. The action of the State Government is an abuse of the rule of law and a desecration of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 ( as amended).
In very vivid terms, the actions of Governor Adeleke and the Osun State House of Assembly are unwarranted assault on the Judiciary and aimed at intimidation.
The NBA wishes to categorically state that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are not ambiguous as to the way and manner a Chief Judge of a State could be removed from office. Certainly, a State House of Assembly resolution for a Chief Judge to “step aside” is unknown to the law of our land.
Furthermore, the law has since been settled in Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR-43391 (CA) that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and determined by the National Judicial Council (NJC). Specifically, the Supreme Court in Elelu-Habeeb & Anor v AG Federation & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (Pt 1318) 423 has clearly stated that the Chief Judge of a State cannot be removed under any guise including the infamous “step aside style” by the Osun State Government without recourse to the NJC.
The NBA is further worried and troubled that in going about its unlawful endeavour, the Osun State Government chose to ignore the lawful order of interim injunction granted by the National Industrial Court sitting in Ibadan, which restrained the Governor of Osun State from interfering with the office of the Chief Judge of Osun State.
This is untoward, coming from a democratically elected state government. All decisions of court must be obeyed and complied with until they are set aside by a superior court of competent jurisdiction.
The NBA’s position is anchored on the constitutional doctrine of separation of power and the independence of the judiciary. The tenure of a judicial officer can not and should not be subject to the mood of politicians.
To this extent, the NBA and its members shall not recognise Hon. Justice Olayinka Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun State, because the provisions of the law must be complied with strictly, in the removal of, and/or appointment of the Chief Judge of Osun State.
The NBA shall take all necessary steps to ensure this impunity and brazen abuse of office does not stand!
Akorede Habeeb Lawal
National Publicity Secretary, NBA