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Onnoghen: Why we reject interference-FG

•We won’t allow external interference in 2019 polls — Presidency
•Supreme Court Justices shun Ag CJN Mohammed’s first official assignment
•CCT order may have been obtained through the back door, SAN alleges
•Onnoghen ouster sad for democracy – Gov Dickson
•PDP suspends presidential campaigns in protest
•Lai Mohammed replies main opposition party
•Esoghan of Benin defends President

By Emma Ujah, Innocent Anaba, Peter Duru, Ikechukwu Onochiri, Dirisi Yakubu, Sam Eyoboka, Eniola Akinkuotu, Emmanuel Ebeleke, Alemma – Oziorura Aliu

Opposition to the suspension of the Chief  Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, continued, yesterday, as the United States (US), the European Union (EU), Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, and civil society groups, among others, criticised the action.

The US described the suspension as questionable while the EU expressed concerns.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, on Friday, announced the suspension of the CJN and moments later swore-in Justice Tanko Muhammad as Acting CJN.

The suspension climaxed the controversy over the allegations against Onnoghan that he failed to declare his assets and charges against him filed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Onnoghen
Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen

Buhari hinged his decision to suspend the CJN on a CCT order but the action immediately generated an uproar  on the grounds that the President has no power to remove the CJN without recourse to the Senate.

Indeed, the US  Embassy in Nigeria, in a statement, yesterday, said the decision of the executive arm of the government of Nigeria to suspend the head of another arm of government without the concurrence of the National Assembly was questionable.

It was the second time in three days that the US and the EU were issuing statements on Nigeria.

Last Thursday, the US and the EU had threatened to place visa ban on any person who may attempt to manipulate Nigeria’s general elections holding in February and March.

A senior lawyer hinted that the CCT order in favour of the CJN’s ouster may have been obtained through the back door.

In yesterday’s statement, the  American government said the suspension of the CJN “undercuts the stated determination of government , candidates and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair , transparent , and peaceful – leading to a credible result .

The statement read , “ The Embassy of the United States is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch ’ s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections .

“ We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch . That undercuts the stated determination of government , candidates , and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free , fair , transparent , and peaceful – leading to a credible result .

“ We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process , full respect for the rule of law , and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria . Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process” .

Judicial process

In its own reaction, the Election Observer Mission (EOM) of the European Union (EU) expressed concerns over the suspension of Onnoghen.

The Mission, in a statement in Abuja, said it was concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the CJN.

It said that with 20 days to presidential and National Assembly elections, candidates and their political parties should be able to have confidence in the judicial process, a course that the suspension could not have enhanced.

The statement read, “The European Union was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the 2019 general elections.

“The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.

“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.

PDP to Tanko: Quit the Bench now!

“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed. The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.

“The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.

“The EU EOM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities.”

We reject interference —FG

In an apparent response to the US and EU statements, the Federal Government, last night, reiterated its commitment to conduct  free, fair and credible elections and vowed not to allow external interference in the  polls.

The Federal Government, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, also noted that the government had  given to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, all it needed to conduct free and credible elections.

“The Federal Government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections in, and a peaceful Nigeria”, the statement said.

“However, we reject any interference or perception management that promotes apprehension,citizens distrust or undermines the transparency and acceptability of the outcomes of our electoral process.

“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all.

“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections.

“In addition, the Federal government has ensured the independence of all organs, institutions and arms of government to perform their functions in a manner that is transparent and is not lacking in integrity whether institutionally or by persons within such institutions or organs and will continue to do this.

“Although the question of foreign interference, whether state sponsored ,promoted or otherwise has dominated recent elections and outcomes globally, the federal government assures citizens and the global community that it will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process.

“Citizens are encouraged to confidently exercise their franchise in an orderly manner with the assurance of the federal government to their security during and after the electoral process as well as the readiness of the security forces to confront any plan or attempt to interfere with or disrupt the process whether by elements within or from outside the country.”

Suspension illegal – Falana

Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, described the suspension as illegal, saying he had had cause to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to withdraw the charge of false declaration of assets filed against Onnoghen  at the CCT. “The call was without prejudice to the merit of the serious allegations levelled against the Chief Justice. In line with decided judicial authorities I had wanted the National Judicial Council to investigate the allegations. Unfortunately, the 88th statutory meeting of the NJC scheduled to hold on January 15, 2019 which could have deliberated on the matter and take an informed position   was postponed indefinitely on the directive of the embattled Chief Justice”, Falana said.

He continued: “The battle shifted to the courts, both the Judiciary and the Executive were forum shopping for court orders from the Federal High Court,   the National Industrial Court, the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. In the process, settled principles of law were sacrificed for the exigency of the moment.   Thus, at the 15th annual Gani Fawehinmi lecture which held in Lagos on January 15   2019, I was compelled to warn against the dangerous trend. Regrettably, the warning fell on deaf ears. Curiously, in an act of brazen impunity, the Executive procured an ex parte order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the immediate suspension of the Chief Justice from office. In his purported compliance with the ex parte order, President Mohammadu Buhari has announced the suspension of Justice Onnoghen as the Chief Justice and appointed Justice Tanko Mohammad as the Acting Chief Justice.

“It is unfortunate that the Bar and the Bench have played into the hands of the sponsors of incipient fascism in the country. For reasons best known to them, the stakeholders in the legal profession stood by and allowed the Office of the Chief Justice to be completely desecrated. It is intringing that the 12 lawyers including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria in the federal cabinet did not deem it fit to disuade President Buhari from carrying out the illegal suspension of the Chief Justice on the basis of an ex-parte order issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. In particular, they ought to have reminded the President of the compulsory retirement of Justice Stanley Nnaji and Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo for issuing illegal ex parte orders for the removal of Dr. Chris Ngige as Governor of Anambra State. It is sad to recall that it was the federal government superintended by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that instigated the illegal removal of the governor at the material time.

Onnoghen’s suspension: 70 CSOs urge NASS to overrule Buhari

“However, notwithstanding the inauguration of Justice Tanko Mohammad as the Acting Chief Justice the legal profession should not hesitate to review the entire Onnoghen saga in the interest of the nation’s judiciary. In Elelu-Habeeb v AGF (2012) 40 WRN 1, the Supreme Court held that by virtue of section 292 of the Constitution the heads of the judicial arms of the state and federal governments in the country cannot be removed without a prior investigation conducted by the NJC. Consequently, the apex court set aside the purported removal of the appellant as the Chief judge of Kwara State upon an address forwarded to the house of assembly   by former Governor Bukola Saraki. Therefore, the National Judicial Council should convene and constitute a committee to investigate the allegations leveled against the Chief Justice and make appropriate recommendation to the relevant authorities.

“Meanwhile, the legal team of the Chief Justice should proceed to challenge his suspension from office either at the Code of Conduct Tribunal or the Court of Appeal. Despite the gravity of the allegations levelled against the Chief Justice the illegality of the suspension should not be allowed to stand. The ex parte order is a suspect document as the motion ex parte on which it was predicated was allegedly filed on January 9, 2019 while the substantive charge against the Chief Justice was filed at the registry of the Code of Conduct Tribunal on January 11, 2019. Furthermore, the counsel who argued the motion is not indicated in the ex parte order. However, in view of President Buhari’s belated fidelity in the rule of law the federal government should comply with all valid and subsisting orders of competent municipal and regional courts made against the federal government. President Buhari should not be permitted to choose and pick orders of courts to obey”.

Sad for democracy, Nigeria’s stability

– Dickson

On his part, the Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and governor òf Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson,  condemned the action against  Onnoghen.

The governor described the suspension as a sad day and indeed a sad commentary on democracy in Nigeria.

The CJN hails from Cross River State, one of the states in the South-South.

The Special Adviser to Dickson  on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, quoted  his principal  as making the comment while speaking with journalists at the weekend.

Dickson  said  the action was inimical to the  stability of the nation and critical institutions of state.

“It is a very sad day, for our nation’s democracy and for the stability of our nation, and the stability of the critical national institution of which the judiciary is primus inter pares”, the governor said.

“We must be concerned about the process, the integrity of the national critical institutions that will safeguard and reinforce our democracy, seeing our democracy has come under very severe stress and test by what has happened today”.

PDP suspends presidential campaign for 72 hours

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council, PPCO, yesterday, announced the suspension of campaign for 72 hours in protest against the action against the CJN.

Describing Buhari’s  action as a “dangerous and brazen assault on the constitution”, the main opposition party in the country explained, in a statement  by the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, that there  was no point campaigning to contest in an election whose very basis had  been so flagrantly undermined.

“The basis for this election is the democracy itself. When democracy comes under this kind of virulent attack, then the election itself becomes superfluous,” the statement said.

The PDP Presidential Campaign was scheduled to be in Benue State yesterday.

The statement went on: “In the first instance, we are suspending our campaign for 72 hours. It is our hope that President Buhari will listen to the voice of all lovers of democracy the world over and restore democracy in Nigeria immediately and without qualifications. At the moment, the President has effectively suspended the constitution under whose basis the elections are being contested.

“The action of President Buhari represents a constitutional breach and a direct attack on our democracy. This must never be allowed to stand, as there is no way by which democracy can survive under these autocratic tendencies.

“We call on all well meaning Nigerians to rise in defence of democracy and save our nation from this imminent slide into tyranny.”

PDP’s suspension of campaign a face-saving measure  – Lai Muhammed

In a response, the Federal Government described as a face-saving measure the decision by the PDP to suspend its presidential campaign, saying the campaign never gained traction in the first instance.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who responded while fielding questions from reporters in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, said: ‘’Which  campaign? Their campaign was over a long time ago. There is nothing to suspend. We said it that their campaign had floundered. You can now see. What they are doing now is looking for a face-saving way out of a dead and buried campaign.’’

He wondered why the PDP is crying more than the bereaved, and asked the opposition party whether  Onnoghen is one of its members.

“And in any event, let’s ask them this question: Is there something that they know that we don’t know? Is there something between them and the suspended CJN? Otherwise, we did not see why they should suspend their campaign anyway, but I can understand that their campaign was bound to end this way,” he said.

According to him, while Nigerians have been trooping out in large numbers wherever the President’s campaign ship berths, the PDP supporters have been dwindling by the day.

On the outcry by some people and organizations over the CJN’s  suspension, the Minister said it’s troubling that those who are crying foul over the suspension of  had actually ignored the fact that a serving Chief Justice not only amassed millions of dollars in his account, but admitted that he forgot to declare same in his Assets Declaration Form.

“For anybody who read Mr. President’s address yesterday, two things stood out. The first is that additional evidence has just been revealed that the suspended CJN refused to declare millions of dollars

in his possession. More worrisome is the fact that when the suspended CJN was confronted with the petition that he failed to declare his assets, he added that it was a mistake, that he forgot”, Mohammed said.

FG welcomes US, UK statements on Nigeria election

“Now, I would have been a happier person if the same people who are now crying tyranny and dictatorship could really address the issue raised by the President, in his address on Friday, that addition investigations have

revealed that several millions of dollars were found in the CJN’s account.And when the CJN was confronted with the original allegation, he admitted that he forgot to make full declaration, and that it was a mistake.’’

On the constitutionality of the CJN’s suspension, he faulted those claiming that the President acted outside of the Constitution, adding that in suspending Onnoghen, Buhari merely carried out an order of a court of competent jurisdiction directing him to suspend the Chief Justice pending the final determination of the cases against him at the CCT.

Presidency wants to truncate democracy, unleash anarchy – Ortom

On his part, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State stated that the suspension of  Onnoghen and his hasty replacement was an attempt by the Presidency to truncate democracy and throw the country into anarchy.

Ortom stated that by the unconstitutional sacking of the CJN, the Presidency had demonstrated that it did not believe in the rule of law, due process and the principles of separation of powers.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Terver Akase, the governor said: “The suspension of the CJN is not only a slap on the judiciary but the action also exposes the present administration’s desperate self-succession bid at the expense of the country’s unity and its continued existence”.

NCEF says it’s jihad against the judiciary

THE Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF)  condemned the CJN suspension, describing it as a  flagrant violation of the constitution and the swearing in of  Muhammad as acting CJN as a jihad against the nation’s judiciary.

Reacting in a telephone interview, Elder Solomon Asemota, SAN, Chairman of NCEF, a  group  of Christian Elders that parades a  former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, Prof. Joseph Otubu, Major Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, Dr Kate Okpareke, Dr Ayo Abifarin, Major Gen. Zamani Lekwot, Moses Ihonde, Nat Okoro and Matthew Owojaiye, said  Buhari has power to remove the CJN.

“What took place on Friday is a charade. President Muhammadu Buhari has no power to do what he did. This is a jihad against the judiciary,”Asemota  said, stressing that “the  action merely confirms our fears over the years that there is a two-faced jihad against democracy in Nigeria.”

According to the NCEF Chairman, the jihad is conventional and non-conventional. He explained  that the conventional is represented by Boko Haram and  herdsmen, while the non conventional is an  attempt  to use power that  government does not have to harangue the people “all designed to truncate the nation’s democracy”.

Human rights lawyer writes  EU, seeks sanction

A US-based Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, despatched a  letter to the EU, yesterday,  asking it to sanction Buhari for what he described as anti-judicial coup.

In the letter addressed to the EU Head of Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Ogebe said the suspension amounted  to executive criminality, urging the body to invoke sanctions on the President for allegedly tinkering with the nation’s legal system.

 

Buhari relied on back door CCT order – Owonikoko, SAN

On his part, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko, SAN, said the ex-parte order the CCT the President relied on to suspend Onnoghen was granted through the back door. Owonikoko said: “I was at that Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday. I witnessed the entire argument and ruling of the majority and minority members. An oral application for interim injunction to order the CJN to vacate his seat in the interim and direct the President to appoint Justice Tanko as acting CJN was moved by prosecution counsel. The CJN counsel, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN,  opposed the application, citing the fact that the court, having acknowledged objection to its jurisdiction, cannot make any interim order. The tribunal corrected the prosecution about its misconceptions that they could temporarily order the removal of the CJN pending trial. It was thereafter that they ruled against it in emphatic terms. The tribunal unanimously rejected the application before adjourning the matter to next week Tuesday for hearing of the objection first; and that, if overruled; then to proceed with the motion by prosecution seeking to remove and replace the CJN pending the trial of the six-count charge.

“It must then mean that after the tribunal adjourned, the Chairman was approached, behind the back of the parties and he granted ex-parte order which is a reversal of his ruling in the open court the day before. In other words, it sat on appeal in chambers without hearing the CJN or his lawyers and reversed its decision rendered in open court. Even the Supreme Court (the final and only infallible court in the land) cannot assume such power of inviolability and self reversal in the same case unless satisfied that the earlier ruling was a nullify. It will nevertheless only do   so after hearing both sides”.

‘Executive lawlessness’

Also speaking, Sylva Oguemoh, SAN, described Buhari’s action as a crass display of executive lawlessness that must not be allowed to stand.

He said: “As it is often said, you cannot put something on nothing, as the something would definitely fall, since it stands on nothing. This clearly depicts the futility of the purported suspension from office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, by President Mohammadu Buhari.

“Section 292 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) spells out the procedure for removal from office of the CJN, and this section does not require much of interpretation because of the clear wordings applied by the drafters of the Constitution in framing the section’’.

In  another  reaction, Executive Director, Access to Justice, Joseph Otteh, said  it is inconceivable that the CCT  could have made such an order which the President  acted  on.

Otteh said: “Given that, during the proceedings of the Tribunal the previous day, an application by the government seeking that Order was not taken, and there were various injunctive orders – including that of the Court of Appeal – requiring the Tribunal to stay action on the case. The government is also aware of these Orders. And we may remark that, on its merits, given the clear provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, the application was itself an obnoxious proposition, that hardly had arguable substance.

“It is also clearly preposterous that the Order could have come from the Code of Conduct Tribunal given that the same Tribunal had adjourned to the 28th of January to hear arguments on its jurisdiction to proceed with the case in the first instance. Access to Justice is extremely worried by the escalating desperation the government is showing in its relentless pursuit of an agenda to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria and what appears to be a very corrupt manipulation of a judicial process to achieve its parochial goals”.

Civil society groups fault suspension

Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, in a statement by its  National Coordinator,  Mr Chino Obiagwu, SAN, said, “Section 292 of the Constitution provides that the Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed from office by the President on an address supported by two third majority of the Senate. There is no power in the President or any other body to suspend or remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria or any judicial officer in Nigeria other than as provided in section 292 of the Constitution. The action of the President is an affront to the Constitution, an attack on the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession, an utter disregard of the rule of law and a threat to Nigeria’s constitutional democracy.

“ The unlawful suspension of the Chief Justice is the climax of the long attempt by the executive to remove him from office using the Code of Conduct system. For the last two or so weeks, the legal profession have stood against this interference in the judiciary, and several orders of the courts including by the Federal Court of Appeal, have been issued to restrain the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s proceedings against the Chief Justice. There is also an order of the Federal High Court restraining the President from suspending him from office.

“It is sad that the President has ignored these subsisting orders of the courts to proceed with the suspension of the Chief Justice. The action of the President is an attack on the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and of the legal profession. If the executive arm of government disregards the orders of the courts, it is a call for utter lawlessness in the nation, as the government will lose the moral authority to demand its citizens to obey court orders or comply with the Constitution.

“The provisions for separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary are well entrenched in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution, and it is the bedrock of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy. The suspension of the Chief Justice, the head of the judiciary by the President, is an unconstitutional interference by the executive into the judiciary arm of government”.

 Suspension of Onnoghen a boost to Buhari’s anti-corruption fight – Esogban

The suspension of Onnoghen, however, got the backing of the  Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, who said it was  a plus for the anti-corruption fight of the Buhari administration.

Addressing a press conference in Benin City, yesterday, Edebiri said the history of Nigeria was  filled with instances of prominent Nigerians undergoing trials irrespective of their status, saying that the threat that Nigeria would fall was an empty threat.

“The CJN will not be the first and last VIP that will be subjected to trial. The arraignment of the Chief Justice before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is a major breakthrough in the fight against corruption in the country. I congratulate the anti-corruption in the country. Those who now threaten to pull the heavens down because of Justice Onnoghen’s arraignment are not good students of history”, he said. “Where they not in this country in 1964 when the immortal Obafemi Awolowo was arraigned on phantom coup plot charges and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a Yoruba judge? Awolowo and his powerful party, Action Group, did not pull down the roof. “Are these people crying not aware that the Zik of and the doyen of Nigerian politics and nationalism was in February 1953 charged before the Sir Foster Sutton Tribunal for alleged wrong doing regarding the finances of African Continental Bank founded by him? Zik with all the powers and support of a solid ethnic group did not threaten to pull down the roof of the house. He submitted to the trial which found him guilty. Zik responded by resigning as the leader of government business in the Eastern region. The governor then dissolved the parliament and in the subsequent election, Zik was returned with the massive votes of his people. The British government that masterminded the fake trial had no option than to accept the verdict of the electorate and Zik was sworn in as the first Premier of Eastern Nigeria.

“Those who had hinged all their hopes on becoming the President of Nigeria through TKO (Technical Knockout) will now go back to the drawing table to strategise on how to win the peoples’ vote through lawful and constitutional means. Similarly, those Nigerians who have constituted themselves into professional supporters club of corruptive tendencies, should have a rethink; that the wealth of this country belongs to all Nigerians and not to the few of them who threaten to pull down the roof of the house each time a member of their club is accused of any wrong doing.

“I wish to urge the president Muhammadu Buhari to go on with the campaign for his second term in office without distractions. This will enable him to complete the good work he is doing particularly, his anti-corruption crusade”

Suspension in order – Ojikutu

Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, a former deputy governor of Lagos State, also spoke in favour of the CJN suspension, saying Onnoghen should have stepped aside following his arraignment before the CCT.

‘’Considering the fact that Onnoghen has not denied these serious allegations against him, he should have stepped aside or quit honorably instead of waiting to be suspended by the Federal government. His trial has become embarrassing to the judiciary, and Nigeria as a nation. Has Onnoghen deny these allegations of running foreign accounts? No. He has not. Unless Onnoghen can say that those foreign accounts doesn’t belong to him, then he should have taken the honorable action by stepping aside. Instead of doing the needful, he is not doing so. What he is doing now by dragging the nation through his trial is not right”,Ojikutu declared.

Ojikutu berated those who are defending Onnoghen saying that some of them have something to hide”, she said.

 

70 CSOs urge NASS to overrule Buhari

In a related development, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room  urged the National Assembly to urgently reconvene and quash Onnoghen’s suspension. The group, a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, in a statement, condemned  Buhari’s action, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional.

“The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room condemns the action of President Muhammadu Buhari purporting to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen and replacing him with an acting Chief Justice”, the statement signed by Mr Cement Nwankwo said. “The action of the President is in violation of the Constitutional procedures for the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as stipulated in section 292 of the Nigerian Constitution and represents a major threat to Nigeria’s democracy and a descent into constitutional anarchy.

“The Constitution of Nigeria is explicit in stating that the Chief Justice of Nigeria may only be removed from Office upon a motion supported by two-thirds of members of the Nigeria Senate on specified grounds. In purporting to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria from Office, President Buhari has breached the Constitution and has acted with impunity and disdain for the rule of law, due process and constitutionality.

“The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse this unconstitutional and illegal action and refrain from interfering with the independence of the judiciary as clearly recognized by the Nigerian Constitution, especially with the general elections scheduled to hold in about three weeks.

“Situation Room also calls on the National Assembly to urgently reconvene in an emergency session and provide needed legislative response to this blatant challenge to our Constitution and democracy”.

 

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