Onnoghen: Nigeria Relapses Into Dark Era Again, Group Says

A think-tank civic group, Eket Collective, says Nigeria has relapsed again into the dark era of military dictatorship after 19 years of civil rule. The group is therefore, calling on pro-democracy activists to return to the trenches in a bid to rescue the country from total collapse.

Spokesman for the group, Etuk-Udo Sampson, said in a telephone chat on Monday that by suspending the country’s Chief Justice, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and replacing him with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, President Muhammadu Buhari has created a potentially dangerous constitutional crisis in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has unequivocally rejected and condemned the alleged constitutional breach against the Nigerian Judiciary and evident suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the Executive arm of the Federal Government.

‘’The action of the Executive portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the Rule of Law and due process. It amounts to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council.

‘’It is unfortunate that the Executive Branch of Government purports to suspend the CJN on the basis of an alleged ex-parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal – the same Tribunal that, to the knowledge of the Executive, had, only on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 adjourned its proceedings to Monday, January 28, 2019 and has before it a Motion on Notice that is yet to be argued, seeking the same reliefs as were contained in the purported ex-parte application, to wit, the suspension of the CJN, amongst others.

‘’We call on the Federal Government to avert the looming constitutional crisis precipitated by its ill-advised action. In particular, the Nigerian Bar Association demands the reversal of the purported suspension of Onnoghen, GCON. We also call on the National Assembly to assert its constitutional authority and powers and prevent this slide into chaos and erosion of the Rule of Law’’, NBA said.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, is seeing the suspension as another act of desperation by President Buhari.’’This action is capable of undermining the nation’s judiciary, subverting the constitution, intimidating judges of all the courts of record, and creating uncertainty in the electoral process.

‘’By unilaterally suspending the CJN without following the provision of the constitution, President Buhari has sent a dangerous signal to the entire world that Nigeria is no longer a democratic nation and that we have returned to the old, jaded era of military dictatorship .

‘’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 specify the roles of the three arms of government, beginning from the National Judicial Council (NJC), the National Assembly and lastly, the Presidency, have different roles to play in that process’’, Saraki said.

Apparently not shaken, President Buhari said, ‘’I received the notice from the CCT directing me to suspend the CJN until final determination of charges against him. Therefore, with the directive of the CCT in a letter dated January 23, 2019, accordingly, I hereby suspend Justice Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria until the final determination of the case against him in the Court of Conduct Tribunal.

‘’In further compliance to the request of the CCT, I hereby, order Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed being the most senior justice in the Supreme Court, to come up and take his oath as the Chief Justice of Nigeria in acting capacity.

‘’Since he has charges of corruption filed against him, he would have acted smoothly to spear our judicial arm further disrepute by excusing himself from superintending over it while his trial will lasted. But unfortunately, he has not done so, instead the nation has been tilted to the scuffle of spectacle of judicial adjudicate in which the Chief Justice of Nigeria and his legal team have made none sense of the Court of Conduct Tribunal to hear the allegation and conclude the charges as quick as possible.

‘’We have all seen the conduct of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, decent on the one of the heads of the court of justice under his control by not obeying the office of this court from the chairman to the judges. Not only the trial court, but others have been put on the spot. practically, every day since his trial commenced, the nation has witness various courts granting orders to counter the case in favour of the CJN.’’

In the mean time, the Eket group says the development is an ill wind that is likely not to do the country any good if due process was not diligently followed in resolving the constitutional conflict.

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