By Rotimi Ojomoyela
Ado-Ekiti-A Chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, Senator Ayo Arise, has said the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen could have saved himself and the nation from unnecessary embarrassment, tow the line of honour and resign
Arise expressed reservations on the stance of the Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC) in the whole saga, saying that the system of government that is being operated in Nigeria only recognizes the supreme court as the final arbiter in any case.
Speaking with newsmen in Ado-Ekiti, shortly after the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ado-Ekiti, Arise described the suspended CJN’s saga as an embarrassment not only to the judiciary but to the country as a whole.
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Arise, who represented Ekiti North Senatorial District in the Senate, between 2007 – 2011, also noted that Nigeria could take advantage of the controversy and make a correction on some weaknesses in the Constitution.
He posited that the suspended CJN could have saved himself and the nation from the mess, if he had taken what he termed ‘path of honour ‘ and resigned from his former position, stressing that no individual could be larger than the judiciary.
“Well, it is an unfortunate scenario that we found ourselves. Ordinarily, Onnoghen should have saved the judiciary, saved this country and also saved his name by simply designed from office”.
“Whether it is allegation, confirmation or deliberate misrepresentation. Whatever the case may be, once Onnoghen has owned up and said he forgot to make the declaration of his assets, he should have resigned and apologised to Nigerians that he, as an individual, represents an institution and no individual should be larger than the judiciary. It is not worth what it has been subjected to.”
Arise, however, faulted the NJC’s perceived attempt to assume the powers of the court on the matter.
“There is no room for apportioning blame at this time. The President acted based on advice from the Attorney General of the Federation, who is the number Law Enforcement Officer of the country.
“When you look at the whole scenario, it appears that it challenges the essence of our constitution. How do you have somebody who has admitted to violating the law of the land to continue to lead that arm of government ?”
“Obviously, there is no basis for justification, either morally or legally. Looking at the reactions of several organisations. The NBA, South-South Governors Forum and others.
“Yes, there is a little bit of controversy in the constitution. The constitution says when a judicial officer commits an offense, he or she should be referred to the Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC) for sanction. It is the same constitution that says when a public servant fails to declare his or her asset or made a false declaration, such officer would be sent to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for prosecution and administration of justice. And a number of guidelines were stated therein .”
“The issue now is which one is superior? Is it the court or the NJC? The system of government that I believe, we are practicing, the NJC cannot be a parallel court to CCT. When you say the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in any case. That is the Supreme Court. So, is the NJC now saying it is equivalent to Supreme Court? So, invariably the answer on my mind is no; that means, something needs to be clarified on the roles of the NJC and the roles of the Courts, vis a vis when a breach of the law is involved.
“As a nation, even though we are learning by the day .this democracy is not a perfect system of government. It is a system that allows for learning, make a correction and improves upon .and add value, as we progress as a nation. It is even good that this scenario came up.And whatever the weaknesses are, in our constitution can be corrected as we move forward.”