The National Judicial Council (NJC) shocked many Nigerians last two weeks when it recommended the compulsory retirement of Justice Olamide Folahanmi Oloyede of the Osun State High Court for daring to write a petition against the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
Acting on the allegations levelled against the judge by a group, Osun Civil Societies Coalition, the council said she failed to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary by writing a petition against the governor and his deputy to the House of Assembly and circulated same to 36 persons and organisations.
The NJC said the judge, by her petition, crossed the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and created a negative perception of the Nigerian judiciary to the public. It also described her actions as constituting misconduct contrary to Section 292(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution and Rules 1(1) and 5 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers. The council proceeded to suspending the judge pending the time Aregbesola confirms her compulsory retirement.
“The petition written by the judge was said to contain political statements, unsubstantiated allegations and accusations aimed at deriding, demeaning and undermining the government of Osun State; the person and character of the governor (as one who is cruel, a liar and a traitor), his deputy and aides. The council also found that the petition contained statements calculated to incite the residents of Osun State against the state government and its elected officers.”
First off, Oloyede was owed salaries for an upward of seven months by the state government. The hardship and suffering this had caused her, her family and other workers as well as their dependants was unimaginable. As a judge, she did not want to be tempted to be demanding for bribes from litigants and lawyers. She could also not understand why in a democracy, a governor, who begged for votes during electioneering could owe workers for seven months and be comfortable in office without resigning or sacked through impeachment.
Following the conspiracy of silence, with courage, in July 2015, she took up the gauntlet and wrote a 39-page petition to the state House of Assembly, calling for the impeachment of Aregbesola and his deputy. In the innocuous petition, the judge alleged that Aregbesola’s “act of literally ruling the state from Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Lagos is disloyal, neglectful and un-patriotic and is the direct cause of most of Osun’s problems.” To her, “all these acts of recklessness amount to the greatest betrayal and treachery of the ideals of democracy and consequently of the rule of law of which he (Aregbesola) is one of the greatest beneficiaries.”
Before people began to make different imputations to the petition, the judge made it clear that she was not motivated by politics, malice, spite, pecuniary interest or promise but personal conviction for governance. She claimed to have made the allegations with a deep sense of responsibility and sincerity of purpose.