The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola, asserted that public opinion must not override the constitution in any judicial judgment, urging judicial officers to remain impartial and unwavering in their commitment to justice.
The CJN made this known when he delivered a message to the nation’s legal community on Wednesday during the swearing-in ceremony of 23 newly appointed judges to the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Ariwoola acknowledged the frequent criticism and attacks that the judiciary faces but emphasized that, regardless of the intensity of public opinion, the Constitution of Nigeria should always serve as the guiding principle in the judicial decision-making process.
“Several vitriolic attacks are regularly heaped on the judiciary. It is, however, crystal clear that public opinion, no matter how serious or weighty it might be, cannot override or supersede the Constitution of the country, which we apply in deciding each case,” stated the Chief Justice.
Justice Ariwoola further urged the newly appointed judges to maintain good moral rectitude and acceptable conduct to uphold the trust reposed in them by the Nigerian masses, emphasizing that their actions would collectively determine their legacy.
He cautioned, “Your Lordships must severe ties with anything that will smear your hands and bring you into disrepute in the course of your new assignment.”
Reflecting on the challenges and expectations placed on judicial officers, the CJN emphasized, “The bench is neither for the indolent, the greedy, nor those with dubious character, who can easily fall for a plate of porridge offered by desperate litigants. You must, at all times, rise above temptations and trials that might obstruct or even halt your rise to the pinnacle of your career.”
Justice Ariwoola also stressed the importance of integrity and passion for success, which set individuals apart in the legal profession.
He warned against misconduct, saying, “The National Judicial Council (NJC) would not hesitate to wield the big stick against any of them that is found wanting.”
“A Judicial appointment is not an appointment to wealth, vainglory, dishonest disposition, or ostentatious lifestyle through corrupt acquaintances,” Justice Ariwoola emphasized, cautioning that the NJC has the means to detect and address corruption and wrongdoing within the judiciary.
In closing, the CJN reminded the newly appointed judges of the challenging times Nigeria faces and the vital role they must play in upholding justice, impartiality, and fairness. He concluded, “Your appointments to the bench at this crucial period of our national history are not by accident but by divine ordination.”
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by members of the legal community, dignitaries, and legal scholars, who applauded Justice Ariwoola’s commitment to upholding the integrity of the judiciary and the rule of law in Nigeria.