Former President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the political class in Nigeria to allow the judiciary to carry out its constitutional functions without interference, highlighting that society is constantly changing. He made this statement during a book presentation and reception event held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, that marked the retirement of the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri.
The former President acknowledged the critical role that Justice Abiri played in 2015 when she swore in the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, thus preventing a constitutional crisis from occurring. He also advised politicians not to be blinded by the power they wield and cautioned judicial officers to strive to be impartial and courageous in upholding the rule of law, which he noted is essential in the delivery of justice.
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“I advise politicians that while in office, let us not try to blackmail the judiciary because it is conservative. When we get political power, we get so blinded. Politicians should know that society is changing,” said Jonathan.
In his own remarks, Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri congratulated Justice Abiri for her outstanding achievements. He noted that during her 15-year term as Chief Judge, she swore in three governors in Bayelsa and one in Rivers. The Governor described Abiri as a legal icon who rendered unblemished and meritorious service in three decades of legal practice and added that the state will still require her services due to her commitment and wealth of experience.
The Chairman of the event and Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Wole Olanikpekun (SAN), lauded Abiri as an elegant, brilliant and hardworking jurist who represents the best in the legal profession. Three books were unveiled at the event, including “Kate Abiri: Footprints on the Bench,” “Judges and Judging in Nigeria,” and “Bayelsa State Law Reports: Volume One.”
In her own response, Justice Abiri expressed appreciation, particularly to the Bayelsa State Governor, for making her experience under his administration seamless, owing to the financial autonomy he introduced.
The former President’s call for the political class to allow the judiciary to carry out its constitutional functions without interference highlights the importance of an independent and impartial judiciary in maintaining a functioning democracy. It is a reminder to politicians and other public officials that the rule of law and the protection of citizens’ rights should always be a top priority. Justice Abiri’s role in swearing in the Rivers State Governor in 2015 also underscores the importance of the judiciary in preventing constitutional crises and maintaining stability in the country.