The outburst of the retiring Supreme Court judge was the first-of-its-kind brutal criticism of a sitting CJN
A retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Dattijo Muhammad, in a brutal criticism of the “absolute powers” of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), on Friday, faulted the composition of the panel that gave the judgements that affirmed President Bola Tinubu’s election victory on Thursday.
Mr Muhammad, who clocked the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Friday, spoke at a valedictory session held in his honour at the Supreme Court complex in Abuja.
His outburst was the first-of-its-kind frontal criticism of a sitting CJN, whom he said enjoyed over-concentration of oversight and administrative powers across the nation’s judiciary.
The incumbent CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola, was not part of the panel that delivered the judgements of the Supreme Court on the presidential election appeals on Thursday, but he was solely responsible for constituting the panel.
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola
Speaking on the composition of the court’s seven-member panel which dismissed the appeals filed by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi against the election of President Tinubu, Mr Muhammad said all the six geopolitical zones in the country ought to be represented.
On Thursday, the seven-member panel led by Inyang Okoro, who hails from Akwa Ibom State in the South-south zone, ruled that Atiku’s and Mr Obi’s appeals lacked merit before affirming Mr Tinubu’s election.
Of the six regions in the country, only South-south, North-west and the North-east were represented on the panel of six members.
To worsen the case for South-east and North-central, with the retirement of Mr Muhammad, who hails from Niger State, North-central, and the death of Centus Nweze, who hailed from Enugu State, South-east in July, the two regions no longer have representatives on the severely depleted bench of the Supreme Court.
He blamed the tardiness in ensuring the two regions had representatives on the Supreme Court bench on the CJN. He said it was deliberate and it “is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN”.
“To ensure justice and transparency in presidential appeals from the lower court, all geo-political zones are required to participate in the hearing.
“It is therefore dangerous for democracy and equity for two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians,” the judge warned.
Mr Muhammad’s broadside is the latest from a retiring justice of the Supreme Court aiming at a sitting CJN and different aspects of Nigeria’s judiciary’s opaque and inefficient systems.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how 14 Justices of the Supreme Court, in June 2022, expressed their displeasure to the then CJN, Tanko Muhammad, concerning the parlous state of affairs at the apex court.
The protesting judges had accused the former CJN of highhandedness and abuse of office.
Mr Muhammad’s criticism comes less than two months after a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Abdul Aboki, during his valedictory court session, called for transparency in the expenditure of funds belonging to the judicary.
In May 2022, Ejembi Eko, who was retiring from the apex court, decried the corruption in the Nigerian judiciary, especially in the handling of its finances.
“Nothing stops the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, the ICPC and other investigatory agencies from opening the books of the judiciary to expose the corruption in the management of their budgetary resources,” Mr Eko said at his valedictory court session, calling on anti-graft agencies to probe the financial records of the judiciary.
CJN’s enormous powers
In his tirades, Mr Muhammad recalled his nearly five-decade judicial career, rising to the top as the second most senior justice of the Supreme Court before bowing out on Friday.
He said the CJN as chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and other statutory Judicial bodies like – the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), the National Judicial Institute (NJI), and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), the jurist noted that “the oversight functions of these bodies should not rest on an individual alone. A person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely.”
Mr Muhammad asserted that the CJN given his enormous powers, appoints members of the various judicial institutions without conferring “with fellow justices nor seek their counsel or input on any matter related to these bodies. He has both the final and the only say.”
“The CJN has the power to appoint 80 per cent of members of the council (NJC) and 60 per cent of members of FJSC. The same applies to NJI and LPPC.
“Such enormous powers are effortlessly abused. This needs to change. Continued denial of the existence of this threatening anomaly weakens effective judicial oversight in the country,” Muhammad noted.
Composition of Supreme Court bench
Drawing on his wealth of experience as a judge, Mr Muhammad faulted the absence of Nigeria’s South-east region from the Supreme Court bench.
He blamed the situation on “the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN.”
With Mr Muhammad’s exit, the North-central region joins the South-east in not having a representative on the Supreme Court bench.
Mr Muhammad chronicled the depletion of the Supreme Court bench either by retirement or death of justices from the North-Central and Southeast zones.
“As it stands, only four geo-political regions- the South-West, South-South, North-West and North-East are represented in the Supreme Court.
“While the South-South and North-east have two serving justices, the North-west and South-west are fully represented with three each,” he explained.
The retiring judge noted that “appropriate steps could have been taken since to fill outstanding vacancies in the Supreme Court. Why have these steps not been timeously taken?
“It is evident that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the court is deliberate. It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN and the responsible exercise of the same.”
Although the CJN recently advertised vacancies in the court which currently has 10 Justices, the court is 11 short of its full complement of 21 justices.
Funding and independence of judiciary
The jurist’s intervention also touched on the issue of funding and independence of the judiciary.
He argued that while the judiciary’s budget soared from N70 billion in 2015 to N165 billion currently, Mr Muhammad said, “Justices and officers’ welfare and the quality of service the judiciary render(s) have (sic) continued to decline.”
Delving into the vexed issue of judges salaries, Mr Muhammad wondered why “…the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court earns more than the Justices. While she earns N1.2m per month, justices take home N751,000 in a month.”
“The CJN on his part takes home N400, 000 plus. The salary of a Justice, curiously, drops rather than increases when he gets the added responsibility of being a CJN.
“That the unjust and embarrassing salary difference between the justices and the Chief Registrar still abides remains intriguing to say the least.”
Despite the diatribes, the CJN had kind words for Mr Muhammad.
Mr Ariwoola described Mr Muhammad as “a jewel of inestimable worth and an icon worthy of celebration and adulation.”
He recalled that the retired judge as his “second-in-command in the hierarchy of the Supreme Court…skillfully aided and supported me virtually in every sphere of administration.”
Mr Ariwoola further said Mr Muhammad embodies “hard work, industry, discipline and high moral rectitude.”
The CJN acknowledged Mr Muhammad’s bluntness, saying he is “never known to be afraid to say things the way they are; and also never shies away from calling a spade by its name, irrespective of whose ox is gored.” (PREMIUM TIMES)
Fire razes NTA Network Centre
Fire on Sunday razed structures at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Sokoto Network Centre.
The cause of the fire has not been ascertained as at the time of filing in this report.
The fire that gutted parts of operational building of NTA Sokoto network centre has been put out by the combined efforts of staff and intervention of fire fighters.
The inferno which lasted for more than three hours is now under control and has not affected the studio, equipment and other sensitive operational areas.
Engineers suspect that the fire may have been as a result of high electricity voltage.
The OB Van, equipment and office furniture have also been saved from the inferno.
This is coming 24 hours after the Head of Service Office in the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, was gutted by fire on Saturday, which affected Block C in the complex.
The Director of Communications for the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mohammad Ahmed, confirmed the incident, noting that the fire that occurred in Block C was caused by an explosion in the Electrical Utility Room on the third floor.
The room, he said, was being used as a solar and inverter room by the current occupant, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ahmed revealed that the incident was brought under control by the Federal and FCT Fire Services at around 5:00 p.m., noting that the fire affected the utility rooms on the second to the eighth floors of the building.During the operation, Permanent Secretaries from the Common Services Office-OHCSF, Lydia S. Jafiya, and the Special Duties Office, Faruk Yusuf Yabo, as well as directors from the affected MDAs were present on the scene.
Japa: Health workers shortage forces hospitals to reduce outpatients, surgeries as 4,000 doctors migrate
The migration of doctors and other health workers to other countries is taking a toll on hospitals across the country as the institutions have reduced the number of their outpatients and surgeries due to a shortage of manpower.
Almost all the health institutions were battling with the shortage as they could not cope with the high number of patients who thronged the government hospitals, which were affordable compared with the private ones.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Health had on Wednesday raised the alarm that not less than five wards with about 150 beds, had been closed down at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, due to a shortage of health workers.
The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Amos Mogaji, said the five wards had to be shut because there were no workers to operate them despite the large number of patients received at the institutions daily.
Findings showed that LUTH was not the only hospital battling with the problem as health workers lamented the heavy workload because their counterparts had left the country.
Although the Nigerian Medical Association and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors could on Sunday not give the exact number of medical doctors that had left the country, the NMA had a few years ago said 2,000 health workers were leaving yearly.
Also, the NARD had in January 2023 stated that a survey it conducted indicated that more than 2,000 of its members left the country in 2022.
However, the harsh economic conditions in the country have been pushing many doctors to leave the country as 1,197 doctors had moved to the United Kingdom since May 29, 2023.
With health institutions including the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta; Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital, Kano and the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife losing close to 1,000 doctors to japa in the last two years, there are strong indications that over 4,000 doctors might have left the country in the last two years.
In the FMC, no fewer than 200 doctors, including 50 medical consultants have left the country for greener pastures abroad.
Because of the shortage of doctors, it was gathered that the hospital was forced to reduce the number of its outpatients attended to and elective surgeries.
According to veryhealth.com, an “elective surgery” is the term used for a procedure that can be safely delayed without great risk to a patient’s health, such as cataract surgery. A nonelective (or emergency) surgery is a procedure that must be performed immediately for lifesaving or damage-preventing reasons.’’
In Kano State, The PUNCH gathered that no fewer than 789 nurses and 162 doctors had left the state, while about 50 doctors had left hospitals in Benue State.
One of our correspondents gathered that as many as 65 doctors left the OAUTH, Ile-Ife, in the last year, while about three wards had stopped admitting patients over inadequate manpower in the hospital.
An official of the NARD in the hospital, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “65 doctors left OAUTH last year. 45 of them completed their training and left, while 20 abandoned their training and left for other countries.”
He also said about three wards in the hospital had stopped admitting patients due to inadequate manpower.
“Out of three units we have in the emergency section, only one is admitting patients. Two other units in the emergency ward are not admitting patients due to inadequate staff.
“Also, the psychiatric unit is not admitting new patients because we don’t have enough nurses. The Paediatric Unit is seriously understaffed. Generally, we don’t have enough staff in the hospital. Some people are available to work, but they are not employed,” he said.
OAUTH management could not be reached for reaction to the claim, as calls to Kemi Fasooto, the hospital Public Relations Officer, rang out and she has not responded to a text message sent to her by our correspondent, as at the time of filing this report.
At the FMC, Abeokuta, the Chairman of the Medical and Dental Consultant Association of Nigeria, Dr Jimoh Saheed, stated that in the last four years, the hospital had lost about 50 consultants and 150 resident doctors to the japa syndrome.
He said, “The japa syndrome has really affected and is still affecting the healthcare system in Nigeria. About 50 medical and dental consultants left FMC Abeokuta alone in the last four years. The number of resident doctors who left for greener pastures should be times three the above number.
“Therefore, the implication is that there is a severe shortage of manpower in the hospital, which has hampered the service delivery and care of patients. We have had to reduce the number of patients seen per clinic and also, and the elective theatre cases per day also dropped.
“As it stands, some segments of our emergencies had to be collapsed for the unit to work efficiently. The implication of all these will mean that we can’t function optimally and the japa wave has affected service delivery, training of medical specialists as well as research.”
Jimoh said the way forward was for the government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector, which would include massive recruitment of various health personnel, and equipping the hospitals to international standards, among others.
Similarly, the Chairman of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Ogun State Hospital Unit, Ijaye, Abeokuta, Mrs Lola Idowu, said nurses that had left the hospital in the last three years could not be less than 40, including those who had retired.
The Benue State chapter of the NMA confirmed that more than half of the number of medical doctors working in the state Health Management Board had left the country to search for jobs in better locations.
The NMA Chairman, Dr Usha Anenga, described the situation as pathetic.
Anenga said, “We used to have over 100 doctors at the Health Management Board but now there are less than 50 left. We used to have a consultant and epidemiologist at the Federal Medical Centre but they have left. The gynecologist at the University Teaching Hospital has also left.”
At the University of Jos Teaching Hospital, Plateau State, about 100 resident doctors have left the facility as the remaining ones at the hospital lament the shortage of manpower in the health institution.
The President of the ARD in JUTH, Dr Ishishen Artu, stated that last year, more than 70 resident doctors had left the hospital.
“What is happening across the country about japa syndrome is not different from the situation here in JUTH. When I came on board as ARD president about 11 months ago, we had 410 members.
“But during our last nominal roll from the accounting department, we were about 340. So that is to tell you how doctors have been moving away from the hospital,” Artu stated.
He blamed the manpower shortage on poor welfare packages, insecurity, and inadequate equipment, and called on the government to intervene to avoid an imminent collapse of the health system across the country.
He added, “Some of us who are still around are not finding it easy. Many of our mates outside the country including Ghana, and South Africa are receiving three to five times what we are receiving in Nigeria.
“They want to come home to practice but they can’t come under the present situation. That is why the government has to look at the issues holistically to address them so that the health sector will not break down completely in the country.”
Kano hospitals hit
Over 789 nurses and 162 doctors have relocated outside Nigeria from Kano State alone, according to the NMA in the state.
Similarly, over 162 medical doctors relocated to other countries across the world within the same period under review.
The Chairman of the Kano State Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Abdullahi Sulaiman, disclosed this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Saturday.
“Many medical doctors and other categories of healthcare workers are exiting the state in droves. So, I cannot tell you the exact number of doctors and nurses that have left the country. I can only give you an estimate.
“It is a bad situation and this is across almost all healthcare workers, not only doctors. They are leaving for Gambia, Somalia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and many others every week,” he said.
According to him, the shortage of such personnel was causing a lot of problems, as those left behind were forced to bear the brunt in the form of overwork, exhaustion, and burnout in a non-conducive working environment.
“About two years back, we wanted to open some wards that were constructed and donated by some wealthy individuals at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, but because there were no healthcare workers to man the places, we had to suspend the opening until later,” Sulaiman stated.
He stated that recently, five anesthetic doctors were employed by the AKTH but three had since abandoned the work and relocated abroad.
“We have been talking about the issue but the government is not taking deliberate steps to address the problem.
“To prevent doctors and other categories of health workers from going out of the country, the government must take deliberate action to address the issue,” he added.
1,197 doctors move
Findings showed that approximately 1,197 Nigerian-trained doctors moved to the United Kingdom since May 29, 2023, to date.
At the moment, Nigeria is set to overtake Pakistan and become the country with the second-highest number of foreign-trained doctors in the UK. Currently, India remains the country with the highest number of foreign-trained doctors in the UK.
This is according to the register of the General Medical Council of the UK. The GMC is a public body that maintains the official register of medical practitioners within the UK.
Though about 1,197 Nigerian-trained doctors were licensed between May 29, 2023 and December 1, 2023, the total number of Nigerian doctors licensed to practice in the UK is now 12,198.
This figure, however, excludes Nigerian doctors who were trained in other countries.
Presently, there are 73 Nigerian-trained doctors in the field of anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine, 61 in the field of emergency medicine, 241 for general medicine, 207 for obstetrics and gynecology, 17 for occupational medicine, 16 for ophthalmology, pediatrics field with 164, and 50 for pathology.
There are 35 of them for public health, 357 for psychiatry, 29 for psychiatry and 135 for surgery.
The rate of migration of medical doctors has recently become a matter of concern. The Nigerian Medical Association, while lamenting the high rate of medical brain drain, had said Nigeria might import doctors in the future.
In 2015, only 233 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK. The number increased to 279 in 2016, while the figure was 475 in 2017. In 2018, the figure rose to 852, while it further increased to 1,347 in 2019.
In 2020, the figure was 833 even though the GMC closed operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure for 2021 was put at 932.
The Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Hospitals, Prof. Emem Bassey, commenting on the brain drain said, “Some African countries are also beginning to poach from Nigeria.
“The West Coast is looking for our specialists. So many people are now going to places like Sierra Leone and Gambia and the wages they earn $3000 to $ 4000. It is about three to four times what they earn back home. So we are beginning to see that people are leaving for other African countries too.
“The health sector is currently undergoing a major crisis in terms of manpower. What we are seeing is that medical specialists, not just doctors, even nurses even more nurses are leaving. Doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, physiotherapists, radiographers, and all manner of health professionals are leaving the country in droves.” ( PUNCH)
$30bn GDP: Igbo Captains of Industry Embrace Gov. Mbah’s Economic Growth
… As governor inaugurates Enugu Investors Network
Captains of industry and prospective investors of South-East extraction have expressed their readiness to key into the investment and economic growth plans of the Dr. Peter Mbah-led Enugu State government.
They expressed satisfaction with the administration’s effort at rallying local domestic business leaders and de-risking the state’s business environment, stressing that investments go to where the risks are less and return on investment (ROI) is high.
This was even as Governor Mbah harped on synergic regional cooperation for economic development, saying a people could only get respect outside their land proportionate to the socio-economic growth in their own homeland.
The business moguls gave the indication in Enugu at the weekend during the inauguration of the Enugu Investors Network, an initiative of the Enugu State Government for mobilising domestic investment.
One of the many business leaders at the event, which also served as the inaugural roundtable of the Network, Dr. Sam Onyishi, CEO of Peace Group of Companies, commended the governor for improved security.
He urged Ndigbo to think home, emphasising that the long-term security of Igbo investment could only be guaranteed in their homeland.
“The government is thinking what I was thinking. The first thing that this government did was to work on the Monday sit-at-home. Two years ago, we did not go to work for 62 days. Last year, we did not go to work for 67 days. This year was going to be worse than that.
“Why I said that the government is thinking what I was thinking is because on the 23rd of November 2013, I told my family that I was not going to make any investment that is worth more than N1 billion outside the South-East.
“I am happy with this government. This is the first time that anybody is inviting me in Enugu State to come and have this kind of heart-to-heart discussion with the governor seated too. The other ones were a kind of ‘come, talk and go home.’ But this one is action. The governor says, ‘This is what we have and what we are going to do together’. It is straight to the point.
“We must be plain and frank with ourselves. So, I do not want to talk about what Nigeria is and what Nigeria is not. As far as I am concerned, I am made for where I come from. Charity begins at home.”
Corroborating, the Chairman of Coscharis Group, Sir Cosmas Maduka, said the Group had since turned homeward, investing heavily in agriculture, among others, in Anambra State and would be eager to explore any of the outlined investment opportunities in Enugu State.
“I want to thank the Governor for thinking alike. However, security is a priority for a true investor, and it is the role of government. That is why I said that investment capital goes where it is safe.
“But you are on the right track. If opportunity presents itself, I would be interested, and that is why we are here”, Maduka stated.
In his remarks, Governor Mbah, who recalled how Dr. Michael Okpara turned the Eastern Region economy around by assembling eminent personalities such as constitute the Enugu Investors Network, said the narratives of insecurity, economic underdevelopment, laxity, and lack of ambitious development initiatives could be changed as they did not represent people of the South-East.
“So, we now have a government in Enugu State that has expressed a humongous vision and ambition as to where we want to see Enugu in the next four to eight years under our watch. We proposed to grow this economy from $4.4 billion to $30 billion to become one of the top players in Nigeria by GDP in the next four to eight years.
“This growth we envision in Enugu is not one that is going to come through the public sector. We expect that the growth would come from investments from the private sector.
“So, my intention here today is to elicit your engagement, your questions, and indeed your involvement on how we can grow Enugu’s economy and, by extension, the South-East economy”, Mbah stated.
Earlier in their remarks, the Secretary to Enugu State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia and the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Adaora Chukwu, said the launch of the Enugu Investors Network underscored the fact that while it was important to look outward for global partnerships, the domestic business leaders were key to Enugu actualising its potential and experiencing irreversible growth and prosperity.
“This administration plans to grow the economy from the inside to outside, putting domestic industry at the centre of our economic plans”, Onyia stated.
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