Contrary to some opinions that the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, should be commended for “resigning honourably” on health grounds, we urge the National Assembly to press forward with its probe of his tenure.
The public deserves to know the merits or otherwise of the allegations of corruption and incompetence levelled against him. In an unprecedented move, 14 Justices of the Supreme Court had recently accused Mohammed of neglecting their welfare despite increased funding of the Judiciary.
The Supreme Court jurists had complained that Mohammed and his family had enjoyed the perks of his office while neglecting their training, travel, basic equipment, housing and other “legitimate entitlements”.
The narrative of “honourable resignation” cannot stand in the face of this revolt. Mohammed’s health problem has been on for quite a while. Why is it now that his colleagues are calling for his probe that the emotive issue of ill-health is drummed up as his reason for quitting?
President Muhammadu Buhari not only eulogised him by claiming that “history will be kind to Justice Tanko”, he even bestowed him with the second highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.
In doing so, the president displayed double standards when his treatment of Tanko Mohammed is compared to that of his immediate predecessor, retired CJN Walter Onnoghen. Onnoghen was forced to resign after allegations of false declaration of assets landed him in the dock at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on April 5, 2019. If the scale of justice was evenly deployed in both cases, the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission, ICPC, should have been on Mohammed’s case while the CCT would have shown interest or moved towards his arraignment.
Tanko Mohammed has been treated as a “sacred cow”. The president has made him smell like roses, perhaps conveniently forgetting that the war against corruption is supposed to be among his top three priorities.
The differential in treatment meted to Onnoghen and Mohammed is another example of how the Buhari administration has deviated from the path of probity in most aspects of governance to the disadvantage of the South.
It was under Tanko Mohammed’s watch that the United States described Nigeria’s courts as a place where justice was sold to the highest bidder. What else do we expect when judicial officers of the nation’s Supreme Court are made to live in poverty and deprivation?
We eagerly await the result of the probe by the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele Committee.