Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, has described the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari as”the most brazen assault on Nigeria’s constitutional history”.
In a thread on his Twitter page, the lawyer said Buhari has either not heeded to the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation or the Attorney General has misadvised or both.
President Buhari suspended Nigeria’s top judge on Friday, citing an order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal over allegations of the non-declaration of his assets.
“I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing me to suspend the Chief Justice pending final determination of the cases against him,” Buhari said.
However, Agbakoba has said the claims by the president is untrue.
“President Buhari claims that the suspension of the Chief Justice Onnoghen is pending the determination of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. This is simply not true. The CCT itself adjourned proceedings in respect of Justice Onnoghen’s matter.”
“This it did in order to determine if it had jurisdiction to try Justice Onnoghen. The President’s decision contravenes the Ruling of the CCT.
“There are at least six (6) 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.”
“These rulings bind the President of Nigeria.”
Several civil rights groups have criticised the president for the ‘unconstitutional act’, highlighting that he has no constitutional authority to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Agabakoba rehashed the point, noting that such power rests with the Senate.
“In any case, Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria 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.”
“For all these reasons the purported suspension of Justice Onnoghen is the gravest insult to the Nigerian constitution in history. It is difficult to understand how President Buhari will expect my vote of confidence in the February polls if he want only desecrates our Constitution.”
Agbakoba expressed shock that Justice Mohammed Tanko offered himself to be sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria. He called on Civil Society Organizations, the bar, the bench and the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria to rise to resist the assault to the Nigerian constitution.