Content media

Contents of CJN’s ‘mystery’ leather handbags revealed

Following the swearing in of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria on June 27, 2022, photos of former CJNs during their swearing in have resurfaced on social media. Footage showed senior Supreme Court justices with tan leather bags slung over their right shoulders as they took the oath.

It sparked unusual curiosity on social media and left many wondering: what does this ‘mystery’ bag actually contain and why has it become a regular feature of the swearing-in of Nigeria’s Chief Justices? Is it for fashion? Is it an essential item when taking the oath?

First, the Lagos State Governor’s Special Adviser on Drainage and Water Resources, Joe Igokwe in a social media post wondered what was in the “bag special” that the current CJN wore when he was sworn in.

A similar bag was spotted at the 2019 swearing-in of former CJN, Tanko Muhammad. to carry a similar bag.

Aloma’s successor, retired judge Mahmud Mohammed, who served as the country’s 14th CJN, was no slouch in the tradition of carrying a small leather bag.

But Mohammed’s successor, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who was in office between 2017 and 2019 when he left unceremoniously, appeared to be an exception to the CJN tradition of carrying the small leather bag.

Curious Nigerians, who have always wondered why CJNs carry the leather bag and what is in it, have tagged it with various amusing names.

In response to Igbokwe’s message, some Facebook users labeled the bag “hunter’s bag”; while others said it was a bag used to “swag up” the white-on-black outfit usually worn by lawyers.

However, others have attempted to suggest the contents of the bag and its meaning.

For example, @ZeeEsq wrote: “The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ariwoola Olukayode. My Lord is fresh and with his picky blender hat, his handsome suit, his elegant glasses and his shiny purse. Why do they always carry handbags? I think it is for the Bible or the Quran and other documents. Besides, it’s swag!” (sic).

Also making an attempt, a Facebook user, Enwerem Emeka, wrote: “They don’t want to carry the Bible or the Quran in the hand in the usual way, so they hide it, which, however, makes the oath ineffective” .

Another user, Ayodeji Awonuga, wrote, “The bag contains honesty, honor, decency, decorum and justice.”

Another user, Baba Ali Najo, wrote: “It contains messages such as ‘You won’t cheat!’ and ‘You will be just, fair and you must love and help your neighbor (Muslim or Christian) in all circumstances!’ and ‘You will forgive and protect your neighbor’s life and property!’ »

Expressing his curiosity, a tweep, Baba Orirede, wrote: “I wonder what the Chief Justice of Nigeria is doing with this bag.

Similarly, another user, Adeyemi Oluwatosin, wrote, “What are those bags the Chief Justices of Nigeria carry and the cap they wear? Is it a rule? Goodbye Tanko and welcome Olukayode.

Puzzle solved

Online sources on the British Library website have indicated that the special bag is referred to as the “Qu’ran saddle bag”. It is believed to have originated around the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is originally made of leather and has a tied strap on both edges so that it can be hung around the shoulders like tote bags. It is also called the “Sharia bag” because it is said to contain original manuscripts of the Quran written in Arabic.

“This Quran is typical in style of a large area centered on the city-states of the Hausa country and the Bornu Empire (today’s northern Nigeria, southern Niger and Chad).

“It was one of many centers of manuscript production in West Africa. The manuscript is in loose leaf and kept in a leather bag. This allowed individual pages to be read while traveling or to be loaned out and learned by heart. It is divided into four pages displaying large illuminations. Bornu Qurans were particularly sought after and exported to North Africa and the Middle East,” the article read.

Some senior lawyers have also commented on the matter, clarifying the perceived mystery surrounding the leather bag.

Talk to Saturday PUNCH, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) said the bag was used to carry the Quran, saying it was also used to show respect for the holy book.

He added: “The bag has a Quran inside and nothing more. It is out of respect for the holy book. It is only for Muslims who want to take an oath using the Quran. A Christian will hold the Bible, while someone who is neither Muslim nor Christian can assert. Everyone is allowed to make a choice based on their religion or beliefs.”

This may explain why Judge Onnoghen did not have the bag when he was sworn in.

Raji added: “The bag is still there in the council room of the villa to be used when needed. You do not leave with any bag from home. I accompanied the acting CJN to the chamber for his swearing-in. He didn’t go with a bag.

Also speaking, an Abuja-based lawyer, Mr Hayatuddeen Mustapha, said: “As a northerner and a Muslim, you will be familiar with this type of bag at home or in court. This is called “jakan-dalailu”. “Jaka” is “bag” in Hausa, so to qualify it with something else, you add an “n” after it. »

Mustapha also said the bag was usually made of leather. He said: “There’s no reason to use leather other than it seems to last better than most materials. The Quran in this jakandalailu is handwritten and not printed. It is wrapped in material and kept inside this bag for added security so that the pages are not damaged.

“There is another leather that is also used to wrap the papers that are put in the bag. It’s not just for lawyers or chief justices. Even though they somehow adopted it in the Supreme Court to be used to swear in Muslim judges, it’s basically to keep the Quran.

The attorney also pointed out that the bag should be slung over the right shoulder except in rare circumstances.

He noted, “It must be hung on the right hand to refer to the Holy Book. As people say we are a secular state, we practice religion in all aspects of our lives. When we swear an affidavit or even in court when we want to testify, we either swear with the Bible, the Quran, or you affirm. This goes as far as the swearing in of the CJN.

Another lawyer, Mr. Hussaini Hussaini, said that under the law, people were sworn into certain constitutional offices, depending on their respective religion. Hussaini added, “Even when the president, Mohammadu Buhari, was sworn in, he hung the bag. There is a process on how public officials would be sworn.

“This bag contains the handwritten Quran. So it’s usually so big and it’s fixed in this bag. So instead of them holding it in their hands and also reading the oath of office, they just hang it over their shoulders.

Another senior lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN), said putting the Quran in the bag was an act of reference to the holy book.

“The bag is not part of the legal dress code or anything. It is the Koran. The CJNs you see with this bag are Muslims. You know you can’t just hold the Quran in your hands like that carelessly, that’s why they devised a method to put it in a bag, so you can just hang it. If you are a Christian, you may receive a copy of the Holy Bible.

“It is a reference act for the holy book. The fact is that when you take the oath, you are supposed to hold the Quran or the Bible in your left hand and the oath in your right. I’m a Muslim and I know you can’t hold the Quran that way, so it’s better and easier. It hangs on the right hand.

A former secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Afam Osigwe (SAN), noted that the CJN does not have to bring the bag from his home as he resides at the Presidential Villa.

“It contains the Koran. From my understanding, it’s like being asked to hold the Bible and take an oath. So it’s probably the Presidential Villa for such an occasion or such an oath. They come in a leather bag.

“Muslims can choose to wear the bag on their right shoulder. This is not unique to the legal profession. The first time I took notice of this bag was when Justice Mustapha was sworn in and interestingly most of the other Chief Justices were Muslims which is why the bag has become a recurring feature.

“When Onnoghen took the oath, he did not carry the bag because the Bible is not usually placed in a bag for such occasions. I may not know what Islam says about the swearing, but I know religion pays attention to attitudes regarding manipulation of the Quran; how you handle it and what you do with it.

For his part, however, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the bag was just an act of imitation, where a new CJN wants to be like the predecessor.

Ozekhome said, “I really don’t know the meaning of the bag. Some people say it is used to keep the Holy Bible or the Holy Quran. But it is recurrent as an object of recycling which now attracts the attention of Nigerians.

“To me, there is nothing as a spiritual relic. It doesn’t feel mystical, talismanic, transcendental, or religious to me. It seems to be a matter of style and ‘copycatism’, with each CJN wanting to look like their own predecessor.