The presidential candidate of Nigeria’s main opposition party, Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the suspension of the Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Abubakar is facing Mr Buhari as the president’s main challenger at the general elections starting on February 16.
Mr Buhari announced suspension of Mr Onnoghen on Friday afternoon, accusing the top jurist of failing to properly declare his assets in violation of the Nigerian code of conduct law. Mr Onnoghen denied the allegations, and the matter had been taken before a tribunal.
The tribunal has not ruled on the matter, but granted a controversial ex-parte order for the president to suspend Mr Onnoghen from office indefinitely.
The Court of Appeal, which has powers to review the actions of the tribunal, ruled this week that the tribunal should cease further hearing on the assets declaration charges, which were brought against Mr Onnoghen by a former aide of Mr Buhari and a senior member of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Enugu State.
The Nigerian Constitution at Section 292 said a Supreme Court judge can only be removed with the concurrence of two-thirds of the Nigerian Senate, which has a total of 109 members. But the legislature has not heard any matter about Mr Onnoghen, much less taken action towards his removal.
Mr Onnoghen was suspended a day before he was scheduled to inaugurate the election petition tribunals for next month’s election. Many believe the president acted to prevent him from doing so.
Mr Abubakar said Mr Buhari’s action was a desperate plot to subvert Nigeria’s democracy days into an election in which Nigerians are set to vote him out of office. Mr Buhari has denied allegations of trying to subvert Nigeria’s democracy.
But the removal of the Chief Justice and installations of an acting judge from the president’s northern region could plunge the country into constitutional crisis, according to legal experts who commented on the matter on social media Friday evening.
See Mr Abubakar’s full statement
The Purported Suspension of CJN Onnoghen is an Act of Dictatorship Taken too Far
Abuja, Nigeria, 25 Jan 2019: The purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, is an anti democratic act which I reject in its entirely and call on Justice Onnoghen and the judiciary to resist with every legal and constitutional means that they can muster.
This brazen dictatorial act is the latest action in the ongoing rape of our nation’s hard earned democracy by those who dined with anti democratic forces, and is symptomatic of the increasing desperation that President Buhari and the cabal pulling the strings have as February 16, 2019 draws near.
The fact that the unlawful suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen was announced just as it became public knowledge that the CJN was constituting the election petition tribunals is not lost on discerning Nigerians and the international community. This act of desperation is geared towards affecting the outcome of the 2019 Presidential elections. Indeed, it is not just the CJN that has been “suspended”, it is the Nigerian Constitution that has been infracted and, in effect, suspended, under the guise of the suspension of the CJN.
The case involving the legality or otherwise of the charges against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is in court, as it should be. So far, the judiciary has ruled in Justice Onnoghen’s favour. So, why not allow the court to adjudicate on the matter? What is the pressing urgency?
I want to seize this opportunity to call for unity amongst the judiciary. Do not let the Muhammadu Buhari administration divide you. Do not let this government turn you against yourselves. The judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the defender of our democracy.
I also urge the international community to follow the commendable example of the United States and the United Kingdom by intervening to make those involved in this undemocratic act know that their actions will have consequences. Strong consequences.
And to the Nigerian electorate, I call on you to save your beloved country from dictatorship by voting against President Muhammadu Buhari’s desperate war against the judiciary. Our country is falling apart under the leadership of President Buhari and it is time to stand up for democracy.
Presidential Candidate of PDP & Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007
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