Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who retired as the Chief Justice of Nigeria on Thursday, said the Supreme Court under his watch refused to be influenced or intimidated by any candidate or political party in delivering its decisions.
He also explained how the judiciary frustrated attempts by politicians to scuttle the 2015 elections.
The jurist, who attained the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Thursday, spoke at the valedictory court session held in his honour at the Supreme Court in Abuja.
The ex-CJN said he had no apologies for the firm decisions the apex court took on cases it adjudicated on.
But the CJN commended the Supreme Court for refusing to be influenced or intimidated to give decisions in a particular manner.
He also said he worked to strengthen the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary and the need to protect it from “undue influence” was part of his key concerns.
Mohammed counted as one of his achievements in office, the stand which the judiciary under his watch took to avert attempts to scuttle the 2015 general elections.
He said, through the judiciary’s principled stand under his watch, he was able to avert the re-enactment of the June 12 electoral crisis which derailed the country’s struggle to return to democratic rule in 1993.
The then military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, had annulled the 1993 presidential election believed to have been won by the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola, partly on the grounds that a court order had stopped the election.
Referencing the annulment as the “saga” in his speech on Thursday, the jurist who served as the CJN between November 20, 2014 and November 10, 2015, said the judiciary disallowed many “frivolous matters” that would have derailed the 2015 general elections.
The ex-CJN said, “Our nation owes the judiciary a debt of gratitude for standing firm in the face of contrary winds that threatened to blow our nation’s democracy off course.
“During the run up to the 2015 elections, our judicial officers withstood immense pressure in order to guarantee a level playing field and smooth transition of government, which ensured that we were spared a re-enactment of the June 12 saga.
“In fact, the courts, thus securing the electoral process, disallowed so many frivolous matters aimed at truncating the electoral process.”
The ex-CJN said, “I am proud to be a part of the Supreme Court which refused to be cowered into truncating the electoral process.”
Justice Mohammed, who praised God for sustaining him during his tenure as the CJN, acknowledged that the judiciary was currently facing challenges.
He called for a concerted efforts of members of the bar and bench to restore the dwindling reputation of the judicial system.
He urged his successor, Justice Walter Onnoghen not to relent in efforts at ridding the Judiciary of all ills.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Thompson Okpoko, who spoke for the Body of SANs, argued that the judiciary brought the current woes on itself.
He noted that the authorities failed to act when signs of the current situation were rearing their heads many years ago.
“…We, in the profession (both the Bar and the Bench), have kept a blind eye to our problems for far too long. We have looked on the other side when improprieties and disgraceful conduct are manifesting themselves right in front of us.
*We have been soft in matters that require stern handling. We have allowed rules to be twisted or bent because ‘it will adversely affect our people.’
“We have sacrificed merits on the altar of geographical spread when we know that no matter how much we spread, we cannot cover everyone and everywhere.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Taiwo Abidogun, commended the retiring Justice Mohammed, for his impactful leadership of the Nigerian judiciary.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), also said the recent happening in the judiciary should serve as an opportunity for self cleansing.