Desmond Mgboh, Kano & Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National Judicial Council (NJC), yesterday went tough on the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the Acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Mohammadu Tanko, slamming a seven-day ultimatum on them to respond to petitions against them.
In addition, the council referred the petition against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), for consideration.
The council reached the decision at the end of its emergency meeting in Abuja, chaired by the retired president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.
The meeting, held without Justices Onnoghen and Tanko considered four petitions filed at its secretariat.
The petitions included: Petition against Justice Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education; petition against Justice Tanko, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative; petition against Tanko, by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and petition against Umar, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
A statement by the NJC Director of Information, Soji Oye. confirmed the position of the NJC.
It said: “The NJC held an emergency meeting yesterday and considered four petitions filed at its secretariat.
“In line with its procedure, council also forwarded the petitions against Justices Onnoghen and Muhammad, to them for their responses.
“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, council abridged the usual response period from 14 to seven working days for the Justices to respond.
“Onnoghen and Muhammad recused themselves from the meeting. Consequently, council elected Justice Umaru Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal as interim chairman to preside over the meeting.
“Council will reconvene on February 11, 2019.”
Meanwhile, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of Onnoghen, cautioning him to desist from acts capable of undermining the unity of the country.
He insisted Buhari acted outside his oath of office mandating him to do justice to all manner of people without ill will, fear or affection.
He told Daily Sun in Kano: “I am a Northerner and I am concerned that an impression is being created as if there is a northern conspiracy against the suspended CJN and his region, which in reality is not so.
“Many Northerners are very uncomfortable with the lopsided distribution of key appointments to the North, at the expense of the rest of Nigeria under the Buhari administration. These actions may have adverse implications for Nigeria, if not now, then in the future.”