Dickson, others condemn Onnoghen’s suspension, say Buhari endangering Nigeria’s democracy

By Editor on 26/01/2019

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The controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday evening has continued to generate mixed reactions with most Nigerians describing the suspension as illegal and aberration of constitutional process.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki; presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and other influential Nigerians have condemned act.

Recall that President Buhari announced suspension of the CJN on Friday, accusing the top jurist of failing to properly declare his assets in violation of the Nigerian code of conduct law. Onnoghen denied the allegations, and the matter had been taken before a tribunal.

The tribunal has not ruled on the matter, but granted a controversial ex-parte order for the president to suspend Mr Onnoghen from office indefinitely.

The Court of Appeal, which has powers to review the actions of the tribunal, ruled this week that the tribunal should cease further hearing on the assets declaration charges, which were brought against Mr Onnoghen by a former aide of Mr Buhari and a senior member of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Enugu State.

The Nigerian Constitution at Section 292 said a Supreme Court judge can only be removed with the concurrence of two-thirds of the Nigerian Senate, which has a total of 109 members. But the legislature has not heard any matter about Mr Onnoghen, much less taken action towards his removal.

Onnoghen was suspended a day before he was scheduled to inaugurate the election petition tribunals for next month’s election. Many believe the president acted to prevent him from doing so.

See statements from Saraki, Atiku, Dickson and others on the suspension below:

Onoghen’s Suspension, a Coup Against Democracy – Saraki

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has described the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari, as a coup against democracy and a deliberate attempt to endanger our hard-won democracy.

Saraki, in a statement personally signed by him stated that the suspension was another act of desperation by President Buhari. He noted that by the suspension of the CJN, Buhari has acted outside the provision of the constitution, has exercised the powers which he does not have and that this action amounted to gross misconduct.

“This is an action aimed at undermtining the nation’s judiciary, subverting the constitution, intimidating judges of all the courts of record, and creating uncertainty in the electoral process, thereby laying the foundation for influencing the outcome of litigations that might arise from next month’s elections.

“There are already the general belief that this hasty action was taken to pre-empt the already scheduled inauguration of election petition tribunals by Hon. Justice Onoghen and to destroy national institutions that are perceived to be unco-operative in his bid to manipulate the electoral process leading to next month’s general elections.

“By unilaterally suspending the CJN without following the provision of the constitution, President Buhari has taken an action which amounted to gross misconduct. He has simply 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. There is no condition under which the President can usurp the powers of other arms of government. I do not know where the President and his advisers got this idea of suspending the CJN on the so-called order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal but this is novel, disingenuous and alien to our laws.

“The President and his team must have seen this so-called suspension as a short-cut to getting Hon. Justice Onnoghen out of the way since the appellate court has eventually stopped the CCT from continuing with the trial of the CJN. It is strange that President Buhari is claiming to be taking orders from a Tribunal which has been ordered by a superior court to halt all actions on the trial.

“With this action, President Buhari has initiated a process the consequence of which nobody can predict. They have precipitated a constitutional crisis.

“At this point, all democratic institutions in the country, the international community and democrats across the world should rise against this blatant act of impunity. We should jointly condemn this retrogressive, uncivilized and despotic measure”, Saraki stated.

He however called on President Buhari to immediately reverse this decision and allow the due process of law to take its natural course in determining the guilt or otherwise as well as the suitability of Hon. Justice Onnoghen to continue as the head of the nation’s judiciary.

The Purported Suspension of CJN Onnoghen is an Act of Dictatorship Taken too Far – Atiku

The purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, is an anti democratic act which I reject in its entirely and call on Justice Onnoghen and the judiciary to resist with every legal and constitutional means that they can muster.

This brazen dictatorial act is the latest action in the ongoing rape of our nation’s hard earned democracy by those who dined with anti democratic forces, and is symptomatic of the increasing desperation that President Buhari and the cabal pulling the strings have as February 16, 2019 draws near.

The fact that the unlawful suspension of Chief Justice Walter 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 case involving the legality or otherwise of the charges against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is in court, as it should be. So far, the judiciary has ruled in Justice Onnoghen’s favour. So, why not allow the court to adjudicate on the matter? What is the pressing urgency?

I want to seize this opportunity to call for unity amongst the judiciary. Do not let the Muhammadu Buhari administration divide you. Do not let this government turn you against yourselves. The judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the defender of our democracy.

I also urge the international community to follow the commendable example of the United States and the United Kingdom by intervening to make those involved in this undemocratic act know that their actions will have consequences. Strong consequences.

And to the Nigerian electorate, I call on you to save your beloved country from dictatorship by voting against President Muhammadu Buhari’s desperate war against the judiciary. Our country is falling apart under the leadership of President Buhari and it is time to stand up for democracy.


Posted 26/01/2019 10:03:42 AM


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