The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the removal of the chief judge of Osun State, Justice Adepele Ojo.
Governor Ademola Adeleke had on Thursday suspended Ojo from office and approved the appointment of Olayinka Afolabi as the acting chief judge.
Ojo was suspended despite an order by the National Industrial Court restraining the governor from removing her from office.
In a statement issued on Saturday, NBA National Publicity Secretary, Akorede Lawal, said the action of the governor is a “clear disregard” for the court’s order.
Lawal said the NBA will not recognise Afolabi as the acting chief judge.
He said the NBA’s position is anchored on the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of judiciary.
“The tenure of a judicial officer cannot and should not be subject to the mood of politicians,” the NBA spokesperson said.
Lawal said the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are not ambiguous on how a chief judge of a state can be removed from office.
“The law has since been settled in Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR-43391 (CA) that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and determined by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“The Supreme Court in Elelu-Habeeb & Anor v AG Federation & Ors (2012) 12 NWLR (Pt 1318) 423 has clearly stated that the Chief Judge of a State cannot be removed under any guise including the infamous “step aside style” without recourse to the NJC.
“The interim injunction restrained the Governor of Osun from interfering with the office of the Chief Judge of Osun State.
“All court decisions must be obeyed and complied with until they arw aet aside by a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
The NBA further condemned the unlawful action of the Osun State Government, describing it as an abuse of the rule of law and a desecration of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“In very vivid terms, the actions of Governor Adeleke and the Osun State House of Assembly are unwarranted assaults on the judiciary and aimed at intimidation.
“To this extent, the NBA and its members shall not recognise Hon. Justice Olayinka Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of Osun State, because the provisions of the law must be complied with strictly in the removal of, and/or appointment of the Chief Judge of Osun State.
“The NBA shall take all necessary steps to ensure that this impunity and brazen abuse of office does not stand,” he added.