By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Senate, Monday ordered the discontinuation of the case it filed at the Supreme Court over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Mohammadu Buhari and replacing him with Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed.
According to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the decision to withdraw the case from the apex court was to enable the National Judicial Council, NJC a chance in its intervention.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser, Media to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu, read, “The Senate has therefore decided to discontinue the case it filed in the Supreme Court. It should be noted that the case has been slated for hearing tomorrow. This decision also affirm the confidence of the Senate in the ability of the NJC to successfully and creditably resolve the issues.”
It would be recalled that the Senate had last Monday, approached the Supreme Court to seek interpretation over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari and replacing him with Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed.
The case filed in the highest court of the land by the Senate was done by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
A statement by Saraki’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, had read, “Earlier today( last week Monday), the Senate filed a case in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, seeking its interpretation on whether President Muhammadu Buhari acted within the provision of the constitution in his suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Walter Nkannu Onnoghen or whether the action of the President does amount to usurpation of the powers of the Senate as provided for in Section 292 of the constitution.
“Following the filing of the case, the matter of the suspension of the CJN which is the main issue for which the Senate had planned to reconvene tomorrow, has become subjudiced.
“Therefore, in line with the standing rules of the Senate not to debate issues that are already pending before the court, the reconvening of the Senate tomorrow has been put off. The previous adjournment of the Senate till February 19, 2019 stays.”
Immediately after the decision, Senate Majority leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North while reacting to the development, had said that the Senate President never intimated the APC Senators prior to the decision to approach the Supreme Court as the entire Senate never met to take such a decision, just as he said that the APC Senate Caucus was disassociating itself from it.
Senator Lawan in the statement had said, “It has come to the notice of the Senate APC Caucus that the Senate had approached the Supreme Court for the interpretation of the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen by the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
” For the records, the Senate never met to take such a resolution and at no time mandated anyone to approach the Supreme Court on this matter on its behalf.
” Consequently, the Senate APC Caucus dissociates itself from the said request for the legal interpretation of the suspension.”
Twenty -four hours after Senator Lawan’s response over the decision of the Senate President to approach the Supreme to seek interpretation over the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Senate Caucus, took a swipe at the All Progressives Congress, APC Caucus of the Upper Chamber.
According to PDP Senate Caucus, it was wrong for the APC Senators through their Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North to have disassociated themselves from the issue of Supreme Court against the backdrop that it was usually the prerogative of the presiding officer to decide whether an issue concerning the chamber should be referred to the court for adjudication and that the position was supported by precedents.
In a statement last week Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South had advised her colleagues in the APC Caucus to stop spreading what she described as misleading information about how Senate decision to file a case in court is taken and who can authorize such a decision.
Olujimi, in a reaction to the statement credited to Senate majority leader, Ahmad Lawan, in which he dissociated the APC Caucus from the decision of the Senate to seek the interpretation of the law in the Supreme Court on whether President Buhari acted within his powers under the Constitution in suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, said that the Senate President was right on he decision taken.
Senator Olujimi had said, “I am surprised that a few of my colleagues in the APC Caucus are spreading disinformation that they were not party to the decision to file a case seeking interpretation of the provision of the constitution concerning the President’s decision to suspend the CJN.
“Those who are saying this are just being mischievous. They know such a decision is not meant for debate on the floor of the Senate. It is the prerogative of the presiding officer and in this particular case, majority of the people in Senate leadership suggested and supported the idea. There is no precedent of when decision on whether to resort to court is referred to the plenary. And there are several cases that the Senate has been and is still involved in.
“Incidentally, those our colleagues in the APC who are spreading this dis-information are those who have been in the Senate for many years and they know the rules, conventions and practices. That is why I consider their current position as mischievous.
“What do they stand to lose in our seeking judicial interpretation of the law? I believe as democrats and lawmakers, it should be our interest to strengthen the law and support the independence of the judiciary. This recourse to the Supreme Court will only strengthen our understanding of the law and clear ambiguities about the provision of the constitution which we all swore to protect.
“It has always been my position that Nigeria is greater than any person or party. Therefore, as legislators, we should always take position in the interest of the country and not allow partisan, party, group or individual interest to push us into taking a stand that will be counter to national interest. As members of the Eighth Senate, we have always agreed among ourselves to stand for Nigeria even when it is against the preference of our party. My colleagues in the APC caucus should return to this agreement. It is Onnoghen today, it may be somebody else tomorrow.”