NIGERIAN Bar Association (NBA) officials have called for the immediate prosecution of the former chief judge of Nigeria Justice Mohammed Tanko after it emerged that he resigned yesterday in response to petitions against him by Supreme Court judges.
Yesterday, Justice Tanko tendered his resignation citing ill-health but it has now emerged that a week ago, 14 Supreme Court judges in a joint petition, levelled grave allegations of mal-administration and financial impropriety against him. Following his resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari swore-in the next most senior judge, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, as the acting chief justice of Nigeria.
In an unprecedented development in Nigeria’s judicial history, the Supreme Court judges had in a leaked letter, accused Justice Tanko of abandoning his responsibilities and diverting funds meant for the running of the judiciary. They complained about their accommodation, vehicles, electricity tariff, supply of diesel, internet services to justices’ residences, training for justices and epileptic electricity supply to the court.
Among other things, they accused the chief judge of receiving their demands without acting after several persistent requests to hold a meeting which was finally held on March 31, where a welfare committee was set up. At the meeting, they demanded to know what had become of funds set aside for the training of justices, alleging that they were denied the usual two to three international workshops annually.
But in his response, Justice Tanko blamed a devastating economic crunch, for his inability to meet their needs. His reaction to the allegations was contained in a statement titled State of Affairs in the Supreme Court in which Justice Tanko said that under him, the court had been discharging its responsibility despite the cash crunch facing the establishment.
However, Maimuna Ikwulono, the chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Makurdi branch, submitted that the allegations against the retired Justice should be investigated so as to help the administration of justice. She said that the impropriety and administrative inefficiency levelled against the jurist should not be swept under the carpet.
Ms Ikwulono added: “Nobody can say that those issues raised be swept under the carpet because we are looking for a solution. Certain things are being done that are hampering the justice administration process, that is affecting judicial responsibilities.
“It is incumbent on the relevant authorities to look into it to stop the wrong to have smoother administration of justice. It is not out of place to look into it.”
Also, Talabi Oluwantonwo, the chairman of the Ilaro branch of the NBA in Ogun State, said that the former chief justice should be investigated. He expressed shock at the speedy manner in which the executive accepted the resignation letter of the chief justice without probing him on the allegation.
Mr Oluwantonwo said: “We were told that he resigned, however, there are allegations against him bothering on corruption, so he should be probed first. They should probe him first before accepting his letter of resignation instead of giving him a national award.”
Also, a former secretary of the NBA, Asaba branch, AF Bridebra, added: “The man was rumoured to have been involved in corrupt activities, so he should be probed. Not only him but it should be extended to all Supreme Court judges and the NBA.
Dr Monday Ubani, the chairman of the NBA section on public interest and development law, said: “Resignation does not stop investigation, if they so desire. One is that there must be the desire to look at the allegations raised by his colleagues, especially on issues of mismanagement of resources.”