Abuja — The unavailability of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, at the swearing-in ceremony of 72 Senior Advocates of Nigeria yesterday may have confirmed the anxiety in some quarters about his health.
The 66-year-old CJN has not been seen in public for weeks.
The special session for the swearing-in of SANs, which was held at the Supreme Court in Abuja, also marked the beginning of the 2020/2021 legal year of the apex court.
The unavailability of the CJN is unusual as he is mostly known to carry out important functions such as this.
The CJN had inaugurated eight justices of the Supreme Court on November 6 but since then, there are conflicting details on when he was last seen in public.
Although no reason was officially given for his absence, it was learnt that he had been ill and was due to be flown abroad for treatment.
At the inauguration of the new SANs yesterday, THISDAY was unable to ascertain his whereabouts of the CJN as nobody was willing to volunteer information.
Represented at the swearing-in by the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the CJN said: “The judiciary, like no other arm of government, had suffered a great deal of internal and external shocks in the course of the year.
“In the course of the year, we lost some of our colleagues in the bench and the bar.
“Our own Justices Karibi Whyte, JSC, CFR and Sylvester Umaru Onu, JSC, CON, died on Friday 23rd May, 2020 and Monday 30th November 2020 respectively.
“Similarly, we lost the chief judges of Yobe and Kogi states, Hon. Justices Garba Musa Nabaruma and Nasir Ajana.
“Within the same period, we lost the President, of the Customary Court of Appeal, Kogi State; Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, former Chief Judge of Niger State, Jibrin Ndatsu Ndajiwo; retired judge of Lagos State, Justice Isiaka Isola Oluwa; Justice Maikaita Bako of Katsina State High Court; and Justice Fidelis Ngwu of Enugu State Judiciary, among others.”
Muhammad said the SAN rank which is a fervent desire of every legal practitioner only comes by way of “hard work, perseverance, endurance and courage”.
“You must roll up your sleeves and get down to work with unrestrained enthusiasm and dexterity; then you can begin to coast home to victory,” he said.
However, he warned the senior lawyers not to use their position of authority to disobey court orders.
“Obedience of lawful court orders has no alternative in any sane society. A threat to this is simply a call for anarchy,” he said.
“I believe strongly that there is no right thinking citizen of this country who will tread that path of infamy. We must respect and duly observe all the tenets of an enduring democracy.
“Nigeria is not a lawless society and no one, irrespective of his or her status, should turn it into one.
“Most times, some persons who, by sheer stroke of providence, find themselves in position of authority, flagrantly disobey lawful court orders, and even make a boast of it.
“Such acts will henceforth not be condoned. In fact, they will be met with severe consequences. we must extinguish such raging fire before it consumes us.”
Some of the newly inaugurated SANs are Bolaji Owasanoye, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC); Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Delta State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpo.