President Muhammadu Buhari Friday, January 25, explained why the suspension of the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) accused of false asset declaration, Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, was necessary.
Onnoghen was replaced by an acting CJN, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, who was sworn in by President Buhari on Friday.
Continentour.com.ng highlights 7 key things President Buhari said about the suspension of Onnoghen and the appointment of Muhammed.
1. Allegation of false asset declaration
President Buhari said: “The nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a Civil Society Organization first became public about a fortnight ago.”
2. Other allegations of corruption
President Buhari said apart from the allegation of false transaction against the Chief Justice, other suspicious transactions have been traced to him. The president said:
“Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.”
3. Onnoghen’s admission of the charges levelled against him
President Buhari said the admission of the embattled CJN Onnoghen on the false allegation charges was one of the reasons the he was suspended. The president said:
“Perhaps more worrisome is the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing ’’mistake’’ and ’’forgetfulness’’ which are totally unknown to our laws as defences in the circumstances of his case.”
4. Onnoghen’s refusal to resign
The president statement reads: “One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.”
5. Counter orders from courts preventing Onnoghen’s arraignment
The president accused Onnoghen of influencing the judiciary as several courts have issued counter orders, preventing the arraignment of the Chief Justice by the CCT.
He said: “Whether deliberately or inadvertently, we have all seen the full weight of the Chief Justice of Nigeria descend on the tender head of one of the organs of justice under his control.
There is simply no way the officers of that court, from the Chairman to the bailiffs, can pretend to be unaffected by the influence of the leader of the Judiciary.
Not only the trial court, but others have been put on the spot. Practically every other day since his trial commenced, the nation has witnessed various courts granting orders and counter-orders in favour of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, all of them characterised by an unholy alacrity between the time of filing, hearing and delivery of judgment in same.”
6. CJN Onnoghen is not above the law
“Nigeria is a constitutional 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 has challenged that pillar of justice in the perception of the ordinary man on the street.
For it is certain that no ordinary Nigerian can get the swift and special treatment Justice Onnoghen has enjoyed from his subordinates and privies in our Judicature,” the president said
7. More corruption allegations against Justice Onnoghen
In the statement by the president, Onnoghen was accused of using his power as the Chief Justice to free corrupt people.
The president said: “It is no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted by the trial and appellate courts.”
8. Order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal
The president said the order for Chief Justice Onnoghen to be suspended came from the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He said:
“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.
It also explains why I am not only complying immediately, but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by these anomalies.”
9. Appointment of new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria
President Buhari said Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed was the next senior justice in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, hence his appointment as the acting Chief Justice.
He said: “In further compliance with the same Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I hereby invite Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed JSC, being the next most Senior Justice in the Supreme Court, to come forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an Acting Capacity.”
Meanwhile, Continentour.com.ng earlier reported that the Advocacy for Integrity and Economic Development (AIED) described the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen as a grand illegality, desecration of the garment of democracy and must be stopped.
In a statement made available to Continentour.com.ng, on Friday, January 25, in reaction to the suspension of the head of Nigerian judiciary and signed by its Director of Publicity, Comrade O’Seun John, AIED stated that the action should be protested not just by every member of the Nigerian Body of Benchers but all patriots who hold dear the continuous existence of Nigeria.
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