The Nigerian Supreme Court has dismissed allegations that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola, secretly left the country to meet with President-elect Bola Tinubu in London. Tinubu, who won the presidential election held on February 25, is currently facing legal challenges seeking to nullify his victory. The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, has received petitions from candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, and his counterpart in the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi, both of whom seek to invalidate the Certificate of Return issued to Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
While the Court of Appeal serves as the first-instance court for presidential election disputes, the Supreme Court, headed by the CJN, serves as the final arbiter. An online media outlet had reported that the CJN disguised himself and left the country in a wheelchair to have a secret meeting with Tinubu in London. However, the Supreme Court has debunked the report, and through its spokesperson, Festus Akande, denied that the CJN and Tinubu held a meeting.
Akande affirmed that the CJN had been in the country and presided over a meeting of the National Judicial Council, NJC, on March 16 and 17. He also confirmed that the CJN had visited London on March 18 for medical attention, accompanied by the Secretary of the NJC, Mr. Gambo Saleh. Akande stated that the CJN returned from his medical trip on March 23 and that President Muhammadu Buhari was aware of the trip.
However, a media outlet had reported that the CJN traveled out of the country on March 11 to meet Tinubu in London, contrary to Akande’s claim. Tinubu’s presidential campaign team had earlier dismissed the report as false, describing it as a “mere salacious fiction meant to draw traffic to the discredited purveyor.”
To further establish that the CJN was in the country, selected pressmen were allowed into his Chambers at the Supreme Court, where they observed him and his aides entering a waiting Special Utility Vehicle, SUV, to attend prayers at a mosque within the precincts of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
In summary, the Supreme Court has dismissed allegations of a secret meeting between the CJN and Tinubu in London, affirming that the CJN had been in the country and that his visit to London was for medical attention. The allegations are seen as part of the legal and political challenges facing Tinubu as he seeks to defend his election victory.