The United Kingdom (UK) has expressed serious concern over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement released on Saturday, January 26, the British High Commission said the uproar the matter has caused across Nigeria and the fact that it happened so close to the general elections were quite worrying.
The UK’s statement read: “We have heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.
“We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern.
“It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections. We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely.
“We encourage all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised by this development through due process, demonstrating their commitment to respecting the constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law.
“We further urge them to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process.”
The UK’s worries were also echoed by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) which noted that the timing of the suspension was suspicious.
The EU’s statement read: “The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.
“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.
“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed.
“The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.
“The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.
“The EU EOM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities.”
Continentour.com.ng had reported earlier that the United States (US) embassy in Nigeria also reacted to the federal government’s suspension and replacement of Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The embassy said that it is concerned over the fact that the decision has triggered a lot of negative reactions and criticisms from most Nigerians.
In a statement on Saturday, January 26, the US embassy called on the presidency to swiftly resolve the issues that have stemmed from the decision with due process.
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