The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) says the particular suspension of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), plus swearing in of another judge as acting CJN, “without due procedure amounts to high treason”.
The group also said for taking the particular action outside the provisions of the Constitution, “the President should be impeached”.
President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended Onnoghen and swore in Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as the acting CJN on Friday.
In his remarks on Onnoghen’s suspension, the President had premised their decision on “an Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued upon Wednesday 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice associated with Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen from office pending last determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and many other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conduct regarding Public Officers”.
However , a declaration by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and Miss Zainab Yusuf, the National Planner and National Media Affairs Director of HURIWA, respectively, quoted Section 292 of the Nigerian Constitution which does not expressly distinguishe between “ temporary elimination (suspension) from a permanent removal (sack)”.
According to the provisions of the 99 Constitution, the CJN can only be removed with the knowledge of the National Set up — the removal must be approved by two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
Portraying HURIWA’ s contrary position to the President’ s decision in order to suspend the CJN, the statement read: “ The power to remove is different and it is even more stringently interpreted in employments with statutory flavor as in this situation, but we have not even begun to talk about the power of removal. Granted that the CCT may have a constitutional role in the removal of the CJN going by a wholistic reading of the above provisions, but there is no statutory provision that clothes the particular CCT with power to order the CJN or any person appearing before this to step aside or recommend that the President should suspend the CJN or anyone appearing before it.
“ Such a procedure quantities to denying the CJN or whoever has been subjected to such treatment from the CCT, his constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence and is an imposition associated with punishment by the CCT even before it has made a finding of guilt (which finding is even appealable to the Court of Appeal). Even after finding a individual such as the CJN guilty of a contravention against the Code of Conduct the Metabolic rate strictly lists the punishments it can impose on the guilty party (subject in order to his right of appeal) and the listed punishments do not include suspension or even recommendation for suspension. It is putting the cart before the horse, and a infringement of the rights of the accused to a fair trial, to suspend him through office while he is undergoing trial before your court when you are not their employer who has initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.
“ The particular suspension of the CJN by the president under whatever guise constitutes a constitutional violation of the principle of separation of powers and a usurpation of the disciplinary power of the NJC enshrined in the Constitution. The power of removal granted under the cosmetic not being an absolute power but one predicated on specified conditions plus requiring the participation of other actors alongside the President, does not range from the power to unilaterally suspend which is under of the disciplinary powers of the NJC.
“ As we have always maintained the decision in the Nganjiwa case, within blurring the delicate lines between disciplinary and penal proceedings may have unknowingly contributed to the desperation that led to this monumental blunder in suggesting to the particular minds of those ignorant of the workings of the law, that the judiciary was hell-bent on protecting its corrupt members and shielding them from the reach from the law. While the current blunder is inexcusable, we can feel the reverberating effect of the particular Nganjiwa case in the spate of court orders and applications that has trailed this particular case and finally culminated in this desperate measure whether well motivated or even ill motivated. In the final analysis, this ill-advised move has rendered nugatory whatever credibility there seemed to be in the initial revelation of undeclared asset from the CJN and transformed the case into one of ill-advised abuse of power. 2 wrongs do not make a right. ”
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