Nigeria: Supreme Court Replies Critics, Says Its Silence Must Not Be Taken for Weakness or Cowardice

*Urges attackers to channel their grievances to political parties

The Supreme Court yesterday reacted in anger to the attacks on its judges over the recent judgments they delivered, warning that those who had been “venting convoluted anger” were ignorant of the law.

Recently, the apex court had delivered what many Nigerians thought were controversial verdicts on former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senate President Dr. Ahmad Lawan.

Although Akpabio and Lawan did not run in their respective senatorial primaries on May 28, 2022, due to their participation in the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primaries, the Supreme Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise them as candidates for the February 25 elections.

The apex court warned purveyors of such attacks on the Judiciary and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, especially a United States-based Professor, Farooq Kperogi, and the Progressive Minds Forum, to desist and channel such energies to political parties which “fail to organise themselves well.”

The Supreme Court singled out a professor at Kennesaw State University in the United States, Kperogi, alleging that his criticisms were as dictated to him by his paymasters.

Director of Press and Information at the Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande officers, in a statement titled: ‘Be mindful of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary,’ said insinuations that its justices were bought over “by some unknown and unseen persons” was nothing short of “a bizarre expression of ignorance”.

The statement also described the call by “a faceless group” for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, to resign as “prosaic.”

According to Akande, over 600 cases have gone to court from just the party’s primaries, which political parties conducted without any encumbrance or interference from any external bodies.

The Supreme Court said if political parties fail to organise themselves well by managing their internal wrangling maturely and now choose to bring themselves to the court, it is duty-bound to adjudicate in accordance with the provisions of the law and not the dictates of any individual or deity, as some people would want it to do.

The apex court noted that if political parties conduct themselves well and orderly, too, the courts will handle fewer cases, and the political atmosphere would be much healthier than it is currently.

The statement read: “It is so disheartening to learn that some individuals and groups of persons who ought to know better and even assume the revered positions of role models to a larger proportion of the citizens are now sadly, the very ones flagrantly displaying ignorance and infantilism in the course of defending the indefensible.

“In an ineptly scripted toxic article, one Farooq Adamu Kperogi, who described himself as a Nigerian-American Professor, decided to plunge into an abysmal pit of irredeemable ignorance by venting convoluted anger on Supreme Court Justices to please his paymasters.

“We have made it abundantly clear on different occasions that judicial officers are neither political office holders nor politicians that should be dressed in such robes.

“Our silence must not be mistaken for weakness or cowardice.

“Certainly, every Nigerian citizen has an inalienable right to express his or her opinion without any encumbrance; but even in the course of expressing such fundamental right, we should be circumspect enough to observe the caution gate of self-control in order not to infringe on another person’s right.

“Even in a state of emotional disequilibrium, we should be reasonable enough to make a good choice of decent words, as every word employed by the pen-happy Kperogi only succeeded in portraying the kind of vacuum that sign-posts all that he has as academic accomplishment.

“I believe those who possess similar credentials with him are obviously ashamed of celebrating any affinity with such a character that has an odious reputation for being a serial verbal assailant over the years, as he sees nothing good in anything good.

“He has only succeeded in inflicting upon himself a mood of bellicose jingoism which does not represent a mark of honour for any discerning mind or academic, the world over.

“Courts don’t advertise or scout for cases for adjudication, but at the same time, we are duty-bound to adjudicate on all matters that come before us to give justice to whoever is due, irrespective of status.

“No court in any clime is a Father Christmas; no one can get what they didn’t ask for.

“Similarly, all matters are thoroughly analysed and considered based on their merits, not the faces that appear in court or sentiments that attempt to becloud the sense of reasoning.

“So, for anyone in their right frame of mind to insinuate that some unknown and unseen persons have bought over the justices is a bizarre expression of ignorance, which definitely has no place in law or even in the realm of pedestrian reasoning.

“We are not surprised with the surge of these well-orchestrated verbal assaults on judicial officers across the country at this period of elections.

“It is a thing we are used to and are ever ready to absorb whatever comes our way, but there should be some decorum and dignity in what we say and do. Politics should not be played without recourse to good conscience and acceptable moral conduct, as everything is evolving globally.

“Calling on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to resign or attacking Justices that sit on various panels, as exhibited by a faceless group that calls itself ‘Progressive Minds Forum’, is rather prosaic.

“If political parties fail to organise themselves well by managing their internal wrangling maturely and now choose to bring themselves to the court, we are duty-bound to adjudicate by the provisions of the law and not the dictates of any individual or deity, as some people would want us to do.

“If political parties conduct themselves well and orderly too, the courts would definitely handle fewer cases, and the political atmosphere will be much healthier than it is currently.

“We shall continuously do our best to discharge our constitutional responsibility to keep the country together and move the nation along the path of peace, progress, and development.

“Attacks by groups, political parties, or individuals under any guise will not deter us; rather, it will boost our resolve to do more for the country.

“It is not only petty but equally very unreasonable for anyone to hurriedly link CJN Ariwoola to his state of origin and tribe simply because of a particular judgment of the court.

“The major problem of Nigeria has always been the undue emphasis on religion and ethnicity in all our dealings. Progress will remain a mirage as long as we continue along that path.

“As of this moment, over 600 cases have so far gone to court from just party primaries which political parties conducted without any encumbrance or interference from any external bodies.

“So, will the political parties, Kperogi, or any individual now accuse the court of causing such unpleasant intra-party wrangling that defied all internal conflict resolution mechanisms?

“Most times, some people try as much as possible to disingenuously stand logic on its head to show their level of incredible dexterity.

“Those who have cultivated the unfashionable penchant of constantly attacking the Judiciary over every judgment or ruling given should better have a rethink and start channeling such robust energy into some ventures that are more developmental than destructive.

“We are not politicians and should not, by any stroke of imagination, be cast in that mold either.

“Nobody’s interest can ever supersede the interest of everybody. Nigeria is bigger than every one of us. A word is enough for the wise,” the apex court explained.