Inspite of setting the records straight by his disclosure that he never met the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, contrary to heavy speculation, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed appears to hav ignited more debate. The raging controversy that Governor Wike met the Chief Justice of Nigeria in a bid to influence the outcome of the tribunal case against his election is still brewing as the opposition APC in the state is still hanging on to its version of the story.
With the Rivers State governments’ position rhymes with that of the CJN. The state government said the governor’s visit was to facilitate the reappointment of the acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Daisy Okocha and the acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Christy Nwankwo, whose tenures will expire by the end of August.
The governor described the interpretation given to the visits as malicious fabrication and outright falsehood, saying he only went to see the CJN on the need to renew the appointments of the acting chief judge and the acting president of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state. But the Rivers APC thinks otherwise. It said in a statement issued, by its publicity secretary, Mr Chris Finebone, that the visits was to compromise the CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, in respect of the disputed governorship election.
Finebone however walks the line of decency by not directly slandering the CJN by saying that the visits were not to the knowledge of Justice Mohammed and that the APC would “not want to act in a way that would portray the CJN as someone that keeps bad company, because APC believes in the impeccable and incorruptible character of Justice Mahmud Mohammed.” Reacting, however, the governor, through his special assistant on media, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, condemned Rivers APC over what he said was a “sinister interpretation” given to the visits.
“While it is true that the governor went to see the CJN on the 7th and 9th of July 2015, his mission was to brief the CJN in his capacity as the chairman of the National Judicial Council, on the need to renew the appointment of the acting chief judge of Rivers State and also the acting president of the Customary Court of Appeal.
“It should be noted that the current tenure of the incumbents will expire by the end of August 2015, by which time the courts will be on vacation and NJC may not be in a position to consider any request for the renewal of their reappointments. “There is, therefore, an urgent need to expeditiously secure the renewal of the appointments of acting chief judge of Rivers State and her counterpart at the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal before the vacation begins,” he said. He also said the governor did not meet the CJN on the said dates as he (Justice Mohammed) was not around, adding that Wike wrote the CJN the next day, July 10, given the urgency and importance of his mission.
He added: “Considering the urgency and importance of his mission, the governor wrote to the CJN the next day, 10th July, requesting the approval of the NJC for him to renew the appointments of Justice Daisy Okocha and Justice Christy Gabriel Nwankwo as acting Rivers State chief judge and acting president of the Customary Court of Appeal, respectively.
“The requests were premised on the need to avoid a sudden vacuum and ensure continuity in the administration of the state judiciary, pending the appointment of substantive occupants into these offices. “There is nothing wrong in the governor, who is also a member of the Body of Benchers, going to see the CJN during official working hours on issues pertaining to the effective administration of justice in Rivers State.
“Therefore, linking the governor’s visit to the CJN with the ongoing election petition is to say the least, malicious, tendentious and a wicked attempt to drag the name of our most revered CJN and indeed the Apex Court into the murky waters of politics,” the statement added. Not convinced, however, Rivers APC publicity secretary, Chris Finebone fired back, insisting that he is not worried by the recent visits of Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed in Abuja, because of its belief that the CJN cannot be compromised and declared that the CJN was beyond the alleged corrupting influence of Wike, adding that the explanation given by his media aide was just another attempt to cover up the real intention behind the visits.
“Having been brought to the public domain by the media, the APC would like to state that, satisfied that Wike’s visits were not to the knowledge of the revered CJN, we did not want to act in a way that would portray the CJN as someone that keeps bad company because the APC believes in the impeccable and incorruptible character of Justice Mahmud Mohammed. We also know that 10 Nyesom Wikes cannot compromise the CJN. “However, it must be noted that, as part of monitoring the visits of the governor, we were able to identify a highly placed character in the Nigerian judiciary behind the plan and the real issues that prompted the visits.
“We understand how government business works and the governor needed not personally pay any visit to the CJN over that matter in the way it was done. Again, we would like Governor Nyesom Wike to make public other persons in the federal judiciary he also visited within the period and reasons for such visits because information in our possession indicates that he met with other officials in the federal judiciary,” Finebone said adding that “The excuse by the governor that his visit had something to do with the matter of appointment of Chief Justice for Rivers State flies in the face.
That was a mere facade. We understand how government business works and the Governor needed not personally pay any visits to the CJN over that matter in the way it was done. With the governor’s team not answering back, it may appear things have settled for now but there is no gainsaying that the mutual suspicion between the ruling and opposition party would continued to rage.
Paul Yovo x-rays the continued public fight between the ruling PDP and the opposition APC over the visit of the governor to the office of the CJN, in spite of the latter’s disclosure that the visit was normal.