Why CJN Tanko Muhammad Resigned

Justice Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Justice Tanko Muhammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, has resigned, as a result of illness.

With his exit, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the most senior in the Supreme Court will, according to a Channels report, step in as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

For some time now, Justice Muhammad has been down with an illness.

Recently, 14 justices wrote him a letter lamenting “the decrepit state of affairs in the Supreme Court.”

They complained of a lack of residential accommodation and vehicles at the court. Also, they accused the CJN of gallivanting with his “spouse, children and personal staff,” while not allowing them to travel with an assistant on foreign trips.

Apart from complaining about lack of legal research assistants, despite the magnitude of cases being adjudicated, they mentioned the erratic electricity supply, making them to work between the “hours of 8 a.m and 4 p.m daily, for lack of diesel.”

Below is the letter:

The Hon Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council
Supreme Court Complex Three Arms Zone, Abuja Nigeria.

Your Lordship,


My Lord The Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, we the entire Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, carefully reviewed the state of affairs in this Court and unanimously resolved to write formally and draw the attention of Your Lordship to our demands.

As a preamble, let it be clearly understood that, the resolution to write Your Lordship was reached with all sense of responsibility. We are serving this Country diligently and to the best of our ability. We resolve disputes between the Executive and the Legislature including all manner of disagreements, between governments and individuals.

We are responsible citizens of this Country. It would be a tragedy if the Nigerian Public were to know that we are unable to resolve our own problems internally without going Public. The decision to write to you formally must be seen by Your Lordship as an effort on our part to preserve the dignity of
the Judiciary and the respect accorded to us by Governments and people of Nigeria. God forbid the day that our internal issues become a matter of National discourse. It would be a catastrophe better imagined.

Your lordship must therefore act before it is too late. My lord may recall that you reluctantly called a Justice’s meeting on the 23rd day of March 2022 after several persistent requests to hold the meeting. Our new Justices
were never introduced formally in a meeting, as has been the practice, from the date of their swearing in on 6th November, 2020 until the 23rd day of March, 2022 when the recent Justices meeting was held.

Your Lordship may also recall that at the meeting we tabled and discussed our demands on:

I. Justices accommodation,
II. Our vehicles,
III. Electricity tariff,
IV. Supply of diesel,
V. Internet services to our residences and chambers,
VI. Epileptic electricity supply to the Court,

We also raised the issue of the failure of the Honourable Chief Justice to carry the Justices along in managing the affairs of the Court, the deteriorating condition of services generally and the state of the litigations

At the meeting, Your Lordship agreed that welfare committee be Constituted to compile and forward our demands. On the 24th day of March 2022, the welfare committee submitted to Your Lordship request for review
of electricity allowance because of the increase in electricity tariff nationwide. The welfare Committee also submitted our request for diesel allowance, because of the epileptic electricity supply, the astronomical hike in the price of diesel and the fact that Justices require electricity to work at home. The Committee also requested for the restoration of our monthly Internet allowance, because we require uninterrupted Internet service in order to have access to materials online to write our judgments. Your Lordship received and ignored these demands since 24th March 2022.

At the Justices meeting, we intimated your Lordship that some Justices sworn on the 6th day of November 2020 were yet to be accommodated by the Court. Your Lordship promised to take up the issue that day. To date Your Lordship has not taken any step in this direction.

With regard to Justice’s vehicles, several are due for replacement, while the new Justices have not received their full complement of vehicles to date. Moreover, some of the vehicles supplied to the Justices are either refurbished or substandard. Your Lordship has not taken steps to address this problem.

At the meeting we also discussed training. In the past Justices were nominated to attend two to three foreign workshops and trainings per annum with an accompanying person for reasons of age. Since Your Lordship’s assumption of office Justices only attended, two workshops in Dubai and Zanzibar. They were not accorded the privilege of travelling with accompanying persons as was the practice. Your Lordship totally ignored
this demand and yet travelled with your spouse, children and personal staff. We DEMAND to know what has become of our training funds, have they been diverted, or is it a plain denial? Your Lordship may also remember that the National Assembly has increased the budgetary allocation of the Judiciary. We find it strange that in spite of the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the Court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements. This is

Another issue discussed was the provision of qualified legal assistants. We are aware that even lower Courts provide legal assistants for their Justices and Judges. The Supreme Court, apart from being the highest Court in the
land, is a policy Court. We are confronted with various complex legal issues of national significance with the addition of time bound matters coming in between our regular Court sittings. We require qualified legal assistants in order to offer our best. This demand has not been accorded any attention by the Honourable Chief Justice.

The state of health care in the Court has deteriorated; the Supreme Court clinic has become a mere consulting clinic. Drugs are not available to treat minor ailments. There is general lack of concern for Justices who require
immediate or emergency medical intervention. Your Lordship has not addressed the issue of our rules Court. The Rules of Court are the immediate tools employed by Justices to dispense Justice to Court users.

Your Lordship has kept the amended Rules of Court for almost three years now, awaiting your signature. We strongly believe the new rules will aid speedy dispensation of Justice.

Recently, the Chief Registrar served Justices with an internal memo, that electricity would be supplied to the Court between the hours of 8am and 4pm daily, for lack of diesel. The implication of this memo is that the Justices
must finish their work and close before 4pm. Your Lordship with all due respect, this is the peak of the degeneration of the Court; it is the height of decadence, and clear evidence of the absence of probity and moral
rectitude. Your Lordship, this act alone portends imminent danger to the survival of this Court and the Judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting to extinction. The Judiciary is an arm of Government. The Supreme Court of Nigeria, just like the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly, is the seat of the Judiciary as an arm of Government. The implication of the memo is that this arm of Government is potentially shut down. May God never allow that day.

Your Lordship, this is a wake up call. Your Lordship must take full responsibility as our leader. You must not concession your responsibility to people who have no responsibility or stake in preserving and defending the
dignity of the Institution. Your Lordship occupies a position of leadership. We will not wait for the total collapse of the institution. We must not abandon our responsibility to call Your lordship to order in the face of these sad developments that threaten our survival as an institution. We have done our utmost best to send a wake up call to Your Lordship. A stich in time saves nine.

Finally, Your Lordship the choice is now yours. It is either you quickly and swiftly take responsibility and address these burning issues or we will be compelled to further steps immediately. May this day never come.

Please accept the assurances of our highest regards.
1. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola
2. Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed
3. Justice Kudirat Motonmori O. Kekere-Ekun
4. Justice John Inyang Okoro
5. Justice Chima Centus Nweze
6. Justice Amina Adamu Augie
7. Justice Uwani Musa Abba-Aji
8. Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba
9. Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju
10. Justice Abdu Aboki
11. Justice Ibrahim Mohammed Musa Saulawa
12. Justice Adamu Jauro
13. Justice Tijjani Abubakar
14. Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim


And Tank Mohammed responded to the 14 Justices’ Accusations


Re: State Of Affairs In The Supreme Court And Demand By Justices Of The Supreme Court

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad would wish to confirm receipt of letter written and addressed to him by his brother Justices of the Supreme Court Bench.

Judges in all climes are to be seen and not heard, and that informed why the CJN refrained from joining issues until a letter, said to be personal, is spreading across the length and breadth of the society. This was akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter

The Supreme Court definitely does not exist outside its environment, it is also affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country. Besides that, the Apex Court has to a larger extent, been living to its constitutional responsibility.

When a budget is made, it contains two sides, that’s the recurrent and the capital, yet all the two are broken down into items. The Federal Government releases the budget based on the budget components. And it’s an offence to spend the money meant for one item for another.

Take for instance, the Supreme Court budgeted this year to re-roof and rehabilitate its complex built over 30 years ago and that is being done. The work on the extension of the complex is near completion, the esthetic lawns and cleanness of the perimeters are being well kept, and security and water supply are adequately provided for his brother Justices in their offices and residences. During the period of pandemic, a profound and extra-care was maintained to avoid causalities among them as well as the staff generally. It would have amounted to an act of irresponsibility to divert money meant for the above for otherwise.

The accusation so far, in summary is that more or all ought to have been done and not that nothing has been done; which is utopian in the contemporary condition of our country.

Before eight new Justices were appointed in 2020 onto the Apex Court bench, there was no additional budget to provide new chambers with equipped library, legal assistance, residential accommodations and logistics for them. The Apex Court has to make do with the resources at its disposal to meet their needs over time. All the Justices of this Court has at least a legal assistance, except some may opt for more. One of the CJN’s legal assistance (now Justice Aina) was appointed to Abuja FCT High Court last month, while another (Barr Ramatu) died three months back. Generally the Judiciary is looking up to recruitment of more legal assistance and other supporting staff this year.

Besides, two Supreme Court Justices died within the period under consideration. Both the four retirees and the two departed cost the court some funds in the forms of gratuities and allowances.

Two weeks ago, eight Supreme Court Justices were nominated for a workshop in London as the court cannot take all of them there at once otherwise the job would suffer. They would be going in batches. Accommodations are being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get. There is none of the Apex Court Justices without SUV and back up cars. If any of them were purchased but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in the court to take those that bought them up over it.

The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel are national problem. The Chief Registrar might have budgeted for N300 per litre but diesel is now selling for over N700 per litre and therefore has to find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there is no way the generator would be put off if the Court is sitting.

The amendment of court rules is on the process, it has to be critically reviewed to avoid conflict with the constitution and other extant laws. Not all the CJN has reviewed the rules in the past. Within the three years his brother Justices mentioned came the pandemic and the judiciary workers’ strike.

The internet services have been restored to Justices’ residences and chambers, just as some allowances have been paid to them. The CJN held a meeting with his brother Justices last Thursday and another one is due to hold this week.

The general public should be rest assured that there’s no hostility or adverse feelings amongst the Justices of the Supreme Court, as everyone is going about his normal duty.

Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, Senior Special Assistant (on Media} to the CJN