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Group Criticises Onnoghen’s Suspension, Calls for Reinstatement

Group Criticises Onnoghen’s Suspension, Calls for Reinstatement

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A group, the New Independence Group (NIG), has condemned the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.

The group also describes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as notorious in disobeying court orders. It said despite Vice President Yemi Osinbajo being a professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the regime has not acted in accordance with the rule of law.

In a statement jointly signed by four of its members, Akinyemi Onigbinde and Wale Are-Olaitan, both professors; as well as Yinka Olujinmi and Deolu Oyekan, the group described the CJN’s suspension as “unfortunate.”

The group’s reaction follows the controversial suspension of Mr Onnoghen on Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari. The president said he was acting on an order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Mr Buhari then swore in another Supreme Court justice, Tanko Muhammad, as Acting CJN.

The suspension, however, sparked a nationwide uproar as many Nigerians including the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Senate President Bukola Saraki described Mr Buhari’s action as illegal.

The federal government has, however, defended the suspension, saying the CJN frustrated his false assets declaration trial at the CCT.

The NIG says the suspension of the CJN is clear meddling in the judicial process in a way that threatens the principle of separation of powers.

“The NIG, alongside other concerned groups, has persistently made a case for the overhauling of our laws and judicial process. Sadly, even with a professor of law and Senior Advocate as Vice President, the Buhari regime has not been able to initiate any meaningful rework of our constitution and laws, preferring to rule with whims and caprices where institutional and administrative frameworks are needed.

“The purported suspension of the CJN on an alleged order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, when there is a subsisting process ongoing at the Appeal Court with a superior jurisdiction, is a flagrant meddling in the judicial process in a way that threatens the principle of separation of powers and the relative autonomy of each arm of government.”

The group urged Mr Buhari to consider the interest of the citizens of the county and desist from further heating up the polity with his actions.

“The NIG urges the president to consider the larger interest of the nation and desist from further heating up the polity with actions that portray desperation on his part to hold on to power at all cost. More important, he needs to develop a robust approach to fighting corruption, rather than sticking to the selective and political prosecution which since previous regimes has proven to be ineffective.”

According to the NIG, the manner the suspension was done makes a mockery of Mr Buhari and other Nigerian politicians’ commitment to a free elections exercise next month.

“The NIG also calls on all Nigerians to rise in defence of the law and its processes, for to do otherwise on account of partisan or emotional affiliation is not to send a strong warning to future despots who may wish to cite this as a precedent. While our laws may be in dire need of reforms,

“We need to abide by them while they subsist. President Buhari cannot, and should not arrogate to himself the power of a Leviathan which enforces the law even while outside it.”

The group called for the reinstatement of Mr Onnoghen and the continuation of his trial.

“It is, therefore, our hope that there will be a return to the path of constitutionality and openness in the trial, to afford Justice Onnoghen fair hearing and also ensure he gets just dessert should he be found wanting.”

Meanwhile, the National Judicial Council in a meeting on Tuesday gave Mr Onnoghen and Mr Muhammad seven days to respond to petitions filed against them.

The NJC said in a communique at the end of its emergency meeting that it received two petitions against Mr Muhammad and one against Mr Onnoghen. A fourth petition was written against the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar.

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