The Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER) and the Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), Prof. Pat Utomi yesterday asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, to resign over the allegation against him by the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.
The group called on the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to save the judiciary from imminent fall, stressing that it is the only organ of government that enjoys the trust and confidence of Nigerians.
Its Convener, Mr Ayo Opadokun, was reacting to the face-off between Katsina-Alu and Salami. Katsina-Alu had sought to ‘elevate’ Salami to the Supreme Court, an offer which the appeal court president declined.
In the heat of the crisis, Salami went to court, alleging that Katsina-Alu moved against him because he refused to acced to the CJN’s request on the handling of the Sokoto State governorship election dispute.
Opadokun observed that Justice Salami made a weighty allegation against the CJN, which cannot be swept under the carpet. He advised Justice Katsina-Alu to step down, until the facts or otherwise are ascertained.
Opadokun urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to use the current opportunity to sanitise the bench for the purpose of retaining public trust and confidence.
He said: “Justice Katsina-Alu should step down. He has no business in staying on in office, until the allegations are proved. The allegations against him are weighty enough. He cannot preside over his own case. The Bar should not play the ostrich. They have a duty to save the judiciary. If he stays on, it is tantamount to a mockery of an edifice that cannot stand the test of time”.
Opadokun recalled that, when a similar allegation of unholy alliance between the defence counsel and chairman of Osun State Governorship Election petition Tribunal Panel was made, the NJC refused to investigate the matter.
He said NJC’s refusal to wade into the crisis has strengthened Senator Iyiola Omisore to write a petition to the council, thereby unleashing more controversies.
Urging the NBA to act fast, Opadokun said: “The judiciary is the only organ of government that is trusted by Nigerians. Once that trust is gone, then, the people lose faith in the entire machinery of government”.
Utomi, in a statement said: “We have followed with growing disgust, the ugly exchanges between Katsina-Alu and Salami.
“Going by the fact that a full-scale inquiry would be needed to ascertain the veracity of the claims and counter-claims, we may not be in a position to apportion guilt to any party.
“However, it is a fact that certain institutions, by the manner of their functions, should remain unassailable by controversy and engender confidence in the hearts of all citizens.
“The Judiciary, headed by the Chief Judge of the Federation, is one of such institutions. It will be honorable for the Chief Judge to resign his appointment at this time.”