As the dust raised by the resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, begins to settle, more information about the intrigues and power play that characterised his departure from the country’s highest judicial office has come to the fore.

The news of Tanko resignation broke yesterday, the former CJN had cited ill-health for his decision to step down even though many suspected that a damning protest letter written by the justices of the Supreme Court accusing him of corruption might have played a part.

However, Daily Trust is reporting that Tanko did not resign from the plum office of the CJN willingly but his hands were forced by powers that be.

According to the media outlet, his resignation was engendered by high-level intrigues, which were long planned but executed Sunday night.

He was forced to resign by a high-level team of security and senior government officials, Daily Trust quoted multiple sources familiar with the development to have said..

The plot to oust Muhammad was planned long ago and was orchestrated by a senior cabinet official and head of a security establishment. They also co-opted senior officials of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in the plan.

A source at the NJC said the plan was contrived late last year but was put on hold until after the retirement of Justice Mary Odili who could have only served as the CJN for less than a year had Muhammad resigned before she left.

The idea was said to have been predicated on the ex-CJN’s deteriorating health condition.

A senior advocate of Nigeria, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ex-CJN was forced to resign on two grounds – the letter collectively written against him by 14 Supreme Court justices, and “certain issues of financial impropriety.”

He said there was the veiled issue of ill-health, which has long been known by many judicial stakeholders but the ex-CJN was left to continue in the position till December 2023, when he was due to retire.

“His condition became so obvious when his supporting staff were behind most of the correspondences, which they preface with ‘I have been directed’,” he said.

‘Removal finalised overnight’

Another source close to the ex-CJN, who craved anonymity, said Muhammad was fetched from his house Sunday night to an unknown destination.

“On arrival, he was presented with a letter of resignation and they demanded that he signed the letter. He was told it was from the president and he obliged them based on that. He was not allowed to make any consultation, including even with his family,” he said.

But another source at the Supreme Court said Muhammad had suffered serious health challenges making it difficult to perform his day-to-day functions, including sitting on cases and attending to files.

He said the situation was partly responsible for the crisis in the court, which led to the letter recently leaked by the 14 judges.