Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has advised the Federal Government to ensure that its plans to put on trial the nation’s chief judicial officer, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, follows due process.
Saraki, in a statement in Ilorin on Sunday, noted that he believes that if the Government truly has genuine reason to put the incumbent CJN on trial, it should ensure that every step in the process is transparent.
He stressed that the process should be that, as clearly stipulated by the law, warning that the government must ensure that the planned trial does not cause chaos in the judicial system.
“A situation where the petition which triggered the trial was submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Wednesday January 8 and by January 10 on Friday, the Chief Justice was presented with it for his reply only for the charges to be drafted that same day and filed in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), all this taking place within three days and commencement of trial fixed for Monday, January 14, already indicate unnecessary haste and short-circuiting of the process of fair hearing.
“It is important for the government and members of the public to know that, as somebody who has traveled this route before, we should refrain from any media trial and political players should avoid abusing the judicial process in order to achieve what they could not get through normal political contests.
“Everybody who is being tried should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is the underlining principle of our justice system.
“The proposed trial of the CJN has once again opened up the debate on the transparency and neutrality of the fight against corruption,” he said.
Saraki expressed grave worry at the haste with which the trial was put up, stressing that only three working days from petition to trial gives room for great concerns.
He stressed that the haste is more worrisome especially considering that there are other pending cases where the individuals involved have been indicted for months and they were yet to be tried or scheduled for trial.
While noting that the anti-corruption fight has become a case of a separate rule for the people close to the executive branch and another set of rules for the rest of Nigerians, the Senate President stated that the fight has been compromised and politicized.
“All these subjective actions politicize the anti-graft fight. They weaken national institutions. They send wrong signals.
“The CJN is not above the law but his trial puts the entire judicial system on trial. It sends a signal to the entire world about our judiciary. It has implications for the confidence of local and foreign investors about the system of adjudication over disputes in our country.
“Thus, the matter should be handled with care, demonstrating intense transparency and strict adherence to due process,” he said.
He added that the entire country and the international community will be watching closely every step in this trial.