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PDP crisis: 18 CSOs mount pressure on CJN Ariwoola to resign

From Fred Itua, Abuja

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), who are members of the Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria (CCSN), have again asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, to resign his appointment over a political comment he made in Rivers state recently.

Members of the group had embarked on a peaceful protest to the Supreme Court but were forcefully dispersed by a detachment of anti-riot policemen of the FCT Command of the Nigeria Police.

The coalition had also marched on the National Assembly in protest against what they described as the seeming partisanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, even as they demanded Ariwoola’s sack if he refuse to resign.

CJN Ariwoola ran into troubled waters, following a political statement he made at a dinner organised in his honour by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who invited him to commission the Retired Justice Mary Odili’s Auditorium in Port Harcourt last weekend.

He was reported to have said he was glad that Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde, was a member of G-5, which is a rebellious group within the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, which had since kicked against the statement.

The coalition is made up of 18 CSOs among which are the Civil Society Forum of Nigeria, Nigeria Youth Development Forum, Democratic Youth Initiative, Forum for Social Justice, Movement for the Development of Democracy and Safeguard Nigeria Movement.

Others are the Alliance for People’s Welfare, Forward Nigeria Movement, Human Right Crusaders, Defenders of Democracy, Democratic Rights Assembly and Voter’s Rights Assembly.

Addressing another press conference Tuesday in Abuja, the Coalition Team leader, Olayinka Dada, said the coalition has outlined measures and legitimate means through which the CJN should he fail to resign will leave office.

According to Olayinka Dada, the country needs an impartial umpire to oversee the judiciary and this Nigerians will not compromise.

The coalition leader said: Since the CJN visited Port Harcourt for a project commissioning, the political landscape of Nigeria has witnessed a lot of unease. This is due to the partisan utterances made by CJN Olukayode Ariwoola at the event.

“Our elections are around the corner and Nigerians expect an impartial judicial who most likely will dispense justice where disputations occur before, during and after the polls.

“At the Port-Harcourt event, Chief Justice Ariwoola was quoted as thus: ‘That is why we should not be scared to have these men of the integrity group, and I am happy that my own governor is among them because he would try to imitate his friend and in-law because we came here to marry for my governor. So, Governor Wike will always threaten that he will call back his sister if my governor fails to play ball. That is why you see him following His Excellency because my governor is afraid of his wife being recalled.’

“These statements are enough testimony of the partisanship of the CJN in a political dispute involving his friends in a political party out of the 18 parties running for elections in 2023. Nigerians are dissatisfied and confused as to this new twist.

“As we all know, election results are often contested in courts and in many instances, end at the Supreme Court. How will the CJN allow honest dispensation of justice if the party and friends he already aligned with are interested parties in such disputes?

“How will the CJN resist the temptations of influencing judgements in favour of his allies? How will his interferences in politics deescalate tension that is already building up?

“We are now at a point where Nigerians feel the gains recorded in the new electoral laws and the reforms INEC put in place may be truncated by the judiciary whose head is now fully a politician.

“We demand the CJN’s immediate resignation to save our democracy. To allow the judiciary to have a vested interest in politics is to damn representative governance which guarantees people’s choice in electing their preferred leaders.

“We can do better by guaranteeing the processes through integrity, non-partisan, credible judiciary. The CJN has shown this will not be possible with him at the helm of affairs.

“2023 means a lot to our citizens and it affords everyone the opportunity to make Nigeria a pride amongst democratic nations.

“Our coalition, therefore, has outlined measures and legitimate means through which the CJN should he fail to resign will leave office. We need an impartial umpire to oversee the judiciary and these Nigerians will not compromise,” he said.

The groups, however, invited all Nigerians to their zonal rallies commencing next week to seek the resignation of the CJN from his position.

“We hereby wish to invite all Nigerians to our zonal rallies commencing next week to seek the resignation of the CJN from his partisan position,” he added.

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