Who Is After Onnoghen’s Job
The trial of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen has taken a new turn as President Muhammadu Buhari suspended him on Friday, and went ahead to swear in Tanko Mohammed from Bauchi State, as the new Chief Justice of Nigeria. It is not yet clear if the president has such powers to suspend the CJN. Mr Buhari explained that he removed Mr Onnoghen based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23, 2019. The swearing was done after the president signed the new Executive Order 007.
This hastysuspension was done despite that Mr Onnoghen had earlier on same Friday,announced a plan to swear in members of the various 2019 election petitiontribunals on Saturday, January 26. The CJN said this through his mediaassistant, Awassam Bassey. Before now, rumours were agog that Mr Onnoghen hadresigned from office, a fact that Onnoghen had to dispute, describing it as absolutefalsehood.
In astatement which he sent to PREMIUM TIMES through Mr Bassey, the CJN urgedNigerians to disregard the rumour and added that he was still performing hisrole as CJN. “There’s absolutely no truth in the rumours making the round thatthe Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, His Lordship Hon. Mr Justice Walter SamuelNkanu Onnoghen, GCON, has resigned his office. It is fake news!
“The Hon CJNwas in the office all through yesterday (Thursday) and sat in court. As part ofhis duties, the Hon CJN will be swearing in members of the 2019 NationalAssembly, Governorship & State Assembly Election Petition Tribunalstomorrow (Saturday 26th January 2019),” the statement said.
Mr Onnoghen hasbeen facing trial over alleged false asset declaration brought against him bythe Code of Conduct Bureau. The Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, has alsorequested that Mr Onnoghen resigns from office, following the variousallegations.
However, thecase, ongoing at the CCT was adjourned till January 28. But the Court of Appealon Thursday ordered the tribunal to suspend sitting, pending the discharge ofcurrent applications before it. The Court of Appeal will give its verdict onthe matter on January 30. The appeals were brought by Mr Onnoghen who wants histrial halted, citing lack of merit.
Buhari who addressedthe media on the suspension, said he expected the CJN to have “actedswiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute by removing himself fromsuperintending over it while his trial lasted”. He also said it was”no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate inwhich the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice WalterOnnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts ofcorruption, often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them havebeen convicted by the trial and appellate courts”.
THEPRESIDENT’S FULL ADDRESS ON ONOGHEN’S SUSPENSION
A short whileago, I was served with an Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued onWednesday 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice ofNigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen from office pendingfinal determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunaland several other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conductfor Public Officers.
The nationhas been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than theChief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruptiontrial since details of the petition against him by a Civil Society Organizationfirst became public about a fortnight ago.
Although theallegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the securityagencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running intomillions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared orimproperly declared as required by law. Perhaps more worrisome is the ChiefJustice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failedto follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing’’mistake’’ and ’’forgetfulness’’ which are totally unknown to our laws asdefences in the circumstances of his case.
One expectedthat with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges ofcorruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghenwould have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute byremoving himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.
Unfortunately,he has not done so. Instead, the nation has been treated to the sordidspectacle of a judicial game of wits in which the Chief Justice of Nigeria andhis legal team have made nonsense of the efforts of the Code of ConductTribunal to hear the allegation on merit and conclude the trial as quickly aspossible considering the nature of the times in which we live.
Whetherdeliberately or inadvertently, we have all seen the full weight of the ChiefJustice of Nigeria descend on the tender head of one of the organs of justiceunder his control. There is simply no way the officers of that court, from theChairman to the bailiffs, can pretend to be unaffected by the influence of theleader of the Judiciary.
Not only thetrial court, but others have been put on the spot. Practically every other daysince his trial commenced, the nation has witnessed various courts grantingorders and counter-orders in favour of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, all ofthem characterised by an unholy alacrity between the time of filing, hearingand delivery of judgment in same. The real effect has been a stalling of thetrial of Justice Onnoghen, helped along by lawyers who insist that theseorders, whether right or wrong are technically valid, and must be obeyed tillan appellate Court says otherwise. No doubt, that it is the properinterpretation, but is it the right disposition for our nation?
Nigeria is aconstitutional democracy and no one must be, or be seen to be, above the law.Unfortunately, the drama around the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria haschallenged that pillar of justice in the perception of the ordinary man on thestreet. For it is certain that no ordinary Nigerian can get the swift andspecial treatment Justice Onnoghen has enjoyed from his subordinates andprivies in our Judicature.
During allthese distracting events, the essential question of whether the accused CJNactually has a case to answer has been lost in the squabble over the form andnature of his trial. This should not be so. If Justice cannot be done andclearly seen to be done, society itself is at risk of the most unimaginablechaos. As a Government, we cannot stand by wailing and wringing our handshelplessly but give our full backing and support to those brave elements withinthe Judiciary who act forthrightly, irrespective of who is involved.
As you areall aware, the fight against corruption is one of the tripod of policiespromised to Nigerians by this administration. Needless to say that it is anexistential Policy which must be given adequate attention and commitment by allthe three arms of government. The efforts of the Executive will amount tonothing without the cooperation of the Legislature and especially theJudiciary.
It is nosecret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which theSupreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen hasserially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, oftenon mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted bythe trial and appellate courts. Since there is nothing the Executive Arm can doafter the apex court of the land has spoken on any matter, several of theseindividuals walk free among us today, enjoying what are clearly the proceeds ofthe corruption which for so long has defeated the efforts of this nation todevelop and prosper.
It is againstthis background that I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunaldirecting me to suspend the Chief Justice pending final determination of thecases against him. It also explains why I am not only complying immediately,but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinaryNigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by theseanomalies. In line with this administration’s avowed respect for the Rule ofLaw, I have wholeheartedly obeyed the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunaldated 23rd January 2019.
Accordingly,I hereby suspend the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, GCONas the Chief Justice of Nigeria pending final determination of the case againsthim at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. In further compliance with the same Orderof the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I hereby invite Honourable Justice IbrahimTanko Mohammed JSC, being the next most Senior Justice in the Supreme Court, tocome forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an ActingCapacity.
FellowNigerians, we can only stand a chance to win the fight against Corruption, andposition our dear nation for accelerated development when we stand together tocontend against it.
Thank you andmay God bless our country.
Nigerianshave reacted to the President’s action, saying the country may have aconstitutional crisis on its hands. Meanwhile a source who craved anonymity disclosedto WakeUpAfrica360 that Danladi Umar, who is the Chairman of the Code ofConduct Tribunal, may be dancicng to the tunes of some people who do not wantOnnoghen to be in power when the elections take plave, for obvious reasons. Accordingto the source “Danladi is not clean, his hands had been soiled. He had somecorruption allegations against him in the past which was swept under the carpet.That may be what they are using to make him comply and insist on tryingOnnoghen even against the ruling of the Court of Appeal to wait until itdelivers judgement.
Who do youthink is after Onnoghen?
Who do youthink will benefit more from his removal as CJN?