Friday, 22 February, 2019


Senate To Reconvene Tuesday, Debate Onnoghen's Suspension

Onnoghen Justice Onnoghen
Bennie Garza | 26 January, 2019, 20:28

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Saturday, condemned the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammad Buhari, saying the suspension and his hasty replacement was an attempt by the presidency to truncate democracy and throw the country into anarchy.

The ruling of the Tribunal also read in part: "It is hereby ordered as follows: That the defendant/respondent shall step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council over allegation of Contravening the provisions of the code of Conducts and Tribunal Act CAP C15 Laws of the Federation 2004 pending the determination of the Motion on notice dated 10th January 2019".

Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on a pledge to stamp out corruption, swore in judge Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as acting chief justice at a ceremony at his official residence.

Below are photos from the event.

As the head of the judiciary, Nigeria's chief justice plays a vital role in settling election disputes.

The judge had admitted a failure to comply with assets declaration requirements, he said, adding: "The suspension is morally justified and legally justified".

Muhammed, like the president, is from Nigeria's largely Muslim north while Onnoghen is from the predominately Christian south. Buhari has been accused of stacking his government with people from the north.

The trumped up corruption charges against Onnoghen are before the courts, who have so far ruled in Onnoghen's favour.

It's no coincidence that the suspension came the day Onnoghen was inaugurating the election tribunal.

Although Secondus was silent on the allegations against Onnoghen, he said Buhari's action was in defiance to the Constitution and an "attack on democracy".

On Friday, he called the move "a brazen act of dictatorship" and "anti-democratic", in a clear reference to Buhari's army past and autocratic rule in the 1980s. Although the CJN is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja, he is yet to make an appearance.

London and Washington this week threatened consequences for anyone involved in electoral fraud or violence, including the refusal of visas.

"What the president has done is essentially a coup against the judiciary", said Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at SBM Intelligence in Lagos, the commercial capital.

The US embassy said it was "deeply concerned" at the decision to replace Judge Onnoghen "without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections".

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