Court bars Governor Adeleke, Assembly from removing Justice Ojo as chief judge


The National Industrial Court sitting in Ibadan has granted a perpetual order restraining Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke and the state House of Assembly from removing Justice Adepele Ojo as the Chief Judge of Osun State.

The decision was contained in a judgment delivered by Justice Peters in a suit filed by Justice Adepele-Ojo with registration number NICN/IB/62/2023, on Wednesday in Ibadan.

The court granted all the reliefs sought by the Osun Chief Judge against the Osun State Government and Osun State House of Assembly, including an order of perpetual injunction restraining both the executive and legislative arms of government from removing her as the number one judicial officer in the state.

It would be recalled that both the state executive and the judiciary leadership were locked in battle in 2023 when the Osun Assembly passed a motion suspending Justice Afepele-Ojo as the Chief Judge of the state.

An acting Chief Judge, Justice Olayinka Afolabi was appointed in her place but he refused to turn up the next day for swearing in.

Justice Ojo had dragged the state government and State Assembly to National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, and secured a restraining order barring Governor Ademola Adeleke from removing her as the substantial CJ of the state.

The court adjourned the matter till December 12, 2023, for hearing of the pending motion on notice.

Following barrage of criticisms from bodies like the Nigeria Bar Association and civil society organisations, the Osun State Government later denied that it sacked Justice Ojo.

The government spokesperson and Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, in a statement said that Adeleke “only forwarded the resolution of the House of Assembly and recommendation for an acting appointment to the Chief Justice of the Federation for decision and action”.

Alimi also described Adeleke as “a man of due process and rule of law with a deep level of respect for the bar and the bench, the NJC and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

Also, in November 2023, members of the Osun State chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union, JUSUN, embarked on an indefinite protest against Justice Ojo’s continued stay in office as the state Chief Judge.

The strike which was declared by the state chairman of JUSUN, Gbenga Eludire, was predicated on a couple of reasons.

JUSUN also dragged the chief judge before both the state House of Assembly and the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Indeed, a civil society organization, Citizens Communication and Advocacy Centre, was one of the first sets of persons (individual and corporate) that documented the Chief judge’s purported sins in a petition.

In the petitions by the organisations to the Osun State House of Assembly and the NJC, for instance, it was claimed that the state judiciary was stinking under the leadership of Justice Ojo.

According to the groups, the chief judge purportedly diverted a sum of N7.5m recovered from some condemned persons involved in the widely reported Ikirun Bank robbery in the state.

Specifically, the group alleged that the trial judge in the robbery case ordered that the sum recovered from the convict must be paid into the account of Osun State Government but that the chief judge directed that the money should be paid into the account of the state judiciary where she is an accounting officer.

The group also alleged that some staff of the Osun Judiciary were unilaterally suspended by Justice Mrs Adepele-Ojo in 2019, without any recourse to the State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for more than four years, while salaries and allowances of the affected staff were paid into an unauthorised special account without notifying the state government paying the salaries.

It was further alleged that even though some of the suspended staff faced several panels, including the ICPC which exonerated them, the Osun Chief Judge refused to lift the suspension on them against known administrative principles.

The group also said that another set of staff of the Osun State Judiciary were arrested, investigated and prosecuted in 2020 over alleged stealing of office materials and that the staff were later discharged and acquitted by court but that the judge disobeyed court verdict which ordered their reinstatement and restoration of their salaries and allowances.

Besides, there were also allegations that the chief judge also purportedly diverted funds (N1million monthly) for the State Judiciary Library meant for purchase of law reports/books (except newspapers) into the Library since 2015; robe allowance of a brother judge of the Osun State High Court which is about N5million; a N4million  monthly security cost being provided by the State Government on the security of the High court, N3.6m monthly which the High Court of Justice under the watch of the Chief Judge is collecting for uniforms and clothing and alleged diversion of revenue due to the government from filing electronic affidavits through the sole appointment of a consultant by the Chief Judge.

According to the petitions, the consultant makes N1000 on an affidavit as against just N250 that is being remitted to the state coffers.

The petition also said that Justice Ojo’s administration rarely regularizes appointment of staff while the court infrastructure is crying for

The strike embarked upon by JUSUN which paralysed judicial activities in the state was formally called off in March, 2024.

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