CJN’s suspension, Agbakoba, others reacts

The suspension of of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday
pending the completion of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal has continued to regenerate actions from Nigerians.

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has described the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, as an attack on the constitution.

In a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos on Saturday, Agbakoba said that all actions ought to be stayed, pending the determination of several cases and appeals filed on the issue before various courts which ordered maintenance of status quo.

He said that the suspension contravenes the ruling of CCT on the matter.

“The CCT itself, adjourned proceedings in respect of Justice Onnoghen’s matter in order to determine if it has jurisdiction to try Justice Onnoghen; the suspension contravenes the ruling.

“There are at least six pending cases in superior courts of Nigeria and one in the Court of Appeal.

“All these cases ruled that Justice Onnoghen should remain in office pending when all cases against him are resolved.

“In any case Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution  sets out the procedure for removing or suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“The power to suspend or remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria vests in the Senate side of the National Assembly,” he said.

In another reaction, Senate President Bukola Saraki, in a statement, said that the suspension was alien to the Constitution.

“There is already a general belief that this action was taken to pre-empt the already scheduled inauguration of election petition tribunals by Onnoghen.

“By unilaterally suspending the CJN without following the provision of the constitution is a dangerous signal to the entire world.

“Our Constitution makes no provision for suspension of the nation’s highest judicial officer. The constitution provides a clear process for removal of the CJN and specifies the roles of the three arms of government, beginning from the National Judicial Council, the National Assembly and the Presidency.

“They all have different roles to play in that process, ” he said.

Similarly, Atiku Abubakar called on Justice Onnoghen and the judiciary to resist with every legal and constitutional means that they could muster.

Abubakar in a statement described the President’s action as the latest in the ongoing rape of the nation’s hard earned democracy .

“The fact that the unlawful suspension of 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 judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the defender of our democracy,” the statement stated.

He also urged Nigerian electorate to save the country from dictatorship by voting against desperate war against the judiciary.

He called for the reversal of the decision to allow due process of law to take its natural course in determining the guilt or otherwise and suitability of Onnoghen to continue as the head of the nation’s judiciary.

Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the Director, Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organization called on the National Assembly to immediately reconvene and proceed with legislative actions against  President Buhari over the suspension referring to such action as an impunity that must not stand.

“There can be no two Chief Justices of Nigeria. Our constitution is clear on how a Chief Justice is appointed and removed,  as such does not lie on the prerogative of the President.

“As such, we urge all Nigerians and the international community to recognize only Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Ologbondiyan invited the international community and particularly the United States and the United Kingdom to note that the action was an assault on the judiciary geared towards subverting the 2019 general elections.

“Nigeria is a democratic state governed by the constitution and the law and Nigerians will never allow anybody to appropriate rulership to himself outside the dictates of the law,” Ologbondiyan said.

Most reactions called for the reversal of the suspension

Also, a rights campaigner, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, told NAN that the suspension violated constitutional provisions.

Omirhobo said that the suspension of Onnoghen and appointment of Tanko as Acting CJN did not follow due process of law.

“It is insulting to ignore the order of the Court of Appeal asking parties in the suit between the CCT and the CJN to maintain status quo.

“As the law stands, Justice Mohammed Tanko was not recommended to the president by the Nigerian Judicial Council for appointment; therefore, such an appointment is unlawful. (NAN)