The Supreme Court of Nigeria has denied an online report that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, had a telephone conversation with President Bola Tinubu, or anyone else, on the ongoing Presidential Election Petition on the 2023 election.

Meanwhile, former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu has stated that the apex court and judges should come to terms with the “vast trust deficit” within the justice sector and put countermeasures to address the issue.

The apex court said Justice Ariwoola neither spoke with Tinubu nor the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS) with a view to pressurizing the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the likely judgment to give in respect of the petitions.

The apex court’s Director of Press and Information, Akande Festus, in a statement issued in Abuja today, said: “In view of the rumour currently circulating in the social media space that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola had a telephone conversation with His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS) with a view to pressurising the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the likely judgment to give, it is imperative to state clearly that there is no iota of truth in the narrative, as there was no such telephone conversation between the CJN and anyone.

“Nigerians have been following the proceedings at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal with admirable enthusiasm. So, it is advisable we all sustain the tempo and follow it up to the end, instead of relapsing into the realm of speculations and rumor peddling that will not do anyone any good.

“If this current trend of falsehood and mudslinging is sustained, our nation may not make the desired progress.”

He said the courts are statutorily established to serve the best interest of the masses, adding that the apex court will do so.

His words: “We wish to plead with everyone to cooperate with the judiciary to serve the country to its full capacity, as no one will ever be favoured against the other in any dispute.

“The rule of law and supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution will always be upheld and applied in every matter that comes before the courts; as the facts presented and the subsisting laws must be applied in determining the merit or otherwise of each matter.

“The public should be rest assured that justice will be done to all matters pending in the various courts across the country, irrespective of who is involved.”

Speaking on CHANNELS TELEVISION’s “Politics Today,” Odinkalu said the public has lost its trust in the judicial system.

“The judicial system reflects a trust deficit that has been long in the making and it is not one thing or an event, it is a build-up,” he said. “The cumulative effect of all of this is that people no longer trust judges.”

Asked if it was a case of mudslinging aimed at the CJN and other judges, the human rights activist dispelled the notion saying, “There is a problem with judicial credibility and this credibility crisis arises almost always in party political cases and election petitions.

“It goes back to the 1979 elections. Since we have been in the election system, judges have been increasingly playing a role in adjudicating election disputes.

“Up to 2003, I think it was tolerable. After 2003, we went into a new territory in which judges started deciding who won and lost elections, started adding and subtracting numbers, and with that, the levels of money being thrown at judges in order to buy decisions began to change.”

On possible solutions to the growing issue, Odinkalu stated that the CJN should first desist from any form of nepotism. “The Chief Justice should not be appointing his son the judge of a Federal High Court, no matter how good his son is,” he said. “There is nothing hereditary about judging and the senior judges should stop doing insider trading with judicial appointments.

“As a country we have to say enough is enough. The buying of the judiciary is why these forms of allegations are being traded.”

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