The drama around the suspension of Osun State Chief Judge, Justice Adepele Ojo, continued on Sunday with Governor Ademola Adeleke denying appointing an acting CJ to replace Justice Ojo.
Ojo was last Thursday asked to step aside by the State House of Assembly to allow for an investigation into some petitions written against her.
On the same day, spokesperson for the governor, Olawale Rasheed, in a statement sent to journalists in Osogbo, said Adeleke had approved the appointment of Justice Olayinka Afolabi as acting CJ in place of the Ojo.
Rasheed said, “Governor Ademola Adeleke has appointed Justice Olayinka David Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun state with immediate effect following the approval of the resolution of the House of Assembly.”
In another statement, Rasheed said the deputy governor, Kola Adewusi, would perform the swearing-in ceremony for Afolabi, who is next on the order of seniority, the following day, Friday.
But the swearing-in did not hold with the government saying it was following the necessary procedures.
But in a fresh twist on Sunday, the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, said Adeleke had not appointed anyone as acting Chief Judge.
Alimi said Adeleke in his communication to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, only notified him of the current investigation of Osun Chief Judge and made a recommendation to the National Judicial Council for the appointment of an acting Chief Judge.
He said, “The government of Osun State has denied news reports that Governor Ademola Adeleke has removed the Chief Judge and appointed an acting Chief Judge, clarifying that the governor had only forwarded the resolution of the House of Assembly and recommendation for an acting appointment to the Chief Justice of Nigeria for decision and action.
“With all sense of responsibility, it is important to set the records straight that Governor Adeleke has only duly notified the Chief Justice as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council in writing about the resolutions of the House of Assembly following a series of petitions made against the sitting Chief Judge of Osun State.
“In the communication, Mr Governor intimated the CJN of the recommendation of the House that the Chief Judge should step aside and include his own submission for an acting appointment to fill the vacuum while the NJC reviews and decides on the petition.
“To that end, the governor, in the same letter, recommended to the CJN, the appointment of the most senior judicial officer, Hon.Justice Olayinka Afolabi, for thorough consideration and further processing by the same NJC through the CJN.”
The commissioner said Adeleke was a man of due process and rule of law with a deep level of respect for the Bar and the bench, the NJC and the country’s constitution.
“We assure the public that Mr Governor is fully aware of the limit of his powers as well as the responsibilities of the various agencies of government and will, therefore, not act in any way to violate the constitution and rule of law,” Alimi said.
Meanwhile, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Osun and the opposition All Progressives Congress traded words on Sunday over the CJ saga.
The Osun APC, in a statement by its chairman, Tajudeen Lawal, berated the governor, saying he was uninformed about the constitutional provisions on the matter of CJ.
“When the blind leads the blind, the fall of all of them will be catastrophic which is what is being witnessed in Osun State today.
“The haphazard handling of the CJ’s suspension by the Osun State lawmakers further confirms the allegation by the public that nothing beneficial to the citizenry can evolve from the Assembly, which 16 of its members are alleged to be Yahoo chieftains?
“One is safe to conclude that the House of Assembly under the speakership of Wale Egbedun has an image problem to contend with before the members of the public can take them seriously that they are not the suckers and lapdogs of Governor Adeleke.”
But responding, the Osun PDP, in a statement by its chairman, Sunday Bisi, declared support for the governor and the House of Assembly on the handling of the CJ’s matter, saying Adeleke demonstrated competence and patriotism in his handling of state matters.
Bisi said, “In the case of issues around the Chief Judge, Governor Adeleke has done the right thing by communicating the development to the National Judicial Council for action. The NJC had received the governor’s letter since last Thursday, putting paid to all ambiguities and misinformation.
“The sign of a good leader is the capacity to set records straight in cases of misinformation. This is what Mr Governor has done. The state PDP reaffirmed its confidence in the leadership style of the state governor and that of the state Assembly, chiding the state APC for lacking a deeper understanding of the dynamics of governance.”
Meanwhile, Adeleke’s spokesman dismissed the claim that the CJ’s troubles stemmed from her judgment in the murder case of a Master’s student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Timothy Adegoke, leading to a death sentence on the owner of Hilton hotels, Ile-Ife, Ramon Adedoyin.
The spokesman said “What is more, throughout the trial, Adedoyin’s legal team was manned by prominent APC lawyers from the beginning to the end. No single PDP lawyer was involved with the Adedoyin team.
“We affirm that the crisis rocking the state judiciary has to do with a series of petitions from judicial officials on alleged misconduct of the Chief Judge. On each occasion, those petitions always ended up unprocessed over deliberate blackmail with the Adedoyin matter until recent action by the state Assembly.
“The governor’s sin is his consistent refusal to accept overtures to protect his kinswoman, the Chief Judge, from probe on alleged corruption. Mr. Governor has always maintained his ground that if as a governor he is not immune from accountability questions, why should he use his office to protect another official because of blood or town kinship?”
But counsel for the CJ, Oladipo Olasope (SAN), in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Sunday, said due process was not followed in the purported removal of CJ.
Olasope, who said he was unaware of any pending petitions against the CJ, said it would not be proper for him to comment.
He said, “I wouldn’t know the allegations made against her (Ojo). I am not aware of any allegation against her and if I say I know of any allegation against her, then I am lying.
“I don’t of any allegation against her. All I know is that the governor said he wants to remove the woman (Ojo) and I don’t know they did not follow due process.”