Nigeria Gets A New Chief Justice, Only Hours After Outgoing One Submitted His Resignation

Olukayode Ariwoola

A new chief justice (acting) has been sworn in by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, only hours after the outgoing one submitted his resignation.

Justice Olukayode Ariwoola took the oath of office on Monday in the nation’s capital to succeed Tanko Muhammad, who resigned earlier in the day for health concerns.

As the nation’s highest judicial official, Buhari said he had received Justice Tanko Muhammad’s resignation and was “constrained to accept his retirement, albeit with mixed feelings” during the ceremony.

“unfortunately, as no man is infallible, ill health has cut short Chief Justice Tanko’s leadership of the Nigerian judiciary at this time,” the president said in reference to the former chief justice’s plan to leave the Supreme Court on the last day of 2023.

“Much as one may wish that the Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammad Tanko is able to fully serve his term in office, it presupposes that he is able to perform the functions of the office without let, hindrance or any form of disability,” Buhari continued.

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In a leaked document, 14 of the 16 Supreme Court justices—including Ariwoola—complained about Muhammad’s leadership and how he had neglected to address their colleagues’ welfare issues. This was less than a week prior to Muhammad’s retirement.

Ariwoola was the second most senior Supreme Court justice prior to his inauguration. 

According to the website of the Supreme Court, he worked in the Court of Appeal for six years before being appointed to the top court in 2011.

After serving in the state high court of the southwestern state of Oyo, he was promoted to the appellate court.

In 1999, he also served on election tribunals in the states of Zamfara and Enugu, as well as election appeal courts in five separate cities at various times, according to the court’s records.