The suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari has been condemned by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA)
The association rejected Justice Onnoghen’s suspension in statement personally signed by its National President, Mr Paul Usoro.
It alleged that the action of President Muhammadu Buhari was an attempted coup against the judiciary and suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the Executive.
The NBA added that the action of the Executive depicted a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the rule of law and due process.
According to the association, President Buhari’s action amounts to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Following the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, President Buhari had appointed and sworn in Justice Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN.
President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, at the State House in Abuja on January 25, 2019. Inset: Justice Walter Onnoghen.
He said he took the decision at the request of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations that Justice Onnoghen failed to declare his assets.
The President’s action has sparked mixed reactions across the country, including a call on the National Assembly by the Peoples Democratic People (PDP) to take legislative actions against him.
But the Presidency had insisted that there was no political undertone in the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, saying it was purely about fighting corruption.
Read the full statement from the NBA below;
COUP AGAINST THE NIGERIAN JUDICIARY AND SUSPENSION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION
The news media has been awash this evening with the news of the purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr Justice Walter S C Onnoghen, GCON by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the swearing-in of Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
We are told that this was pursuant to an Ex-Parte Order that was issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.
The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally rejects and condemns this attempted coup against the Nigerian Judiciary and evident suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the Executive arm of the Federal Government.
The action of the Executive portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the Rule of Law and due process.
It amounts to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council.
It is unfortunate that the Executive Branch of Government purports to suspend the CJN on the basis of an alleged ex-parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal – the same Tribunal that, to the knowledge of the Executive, had, only the previous day, Tuesday, 22 January 2019 adjourned its proceedings to Monday, 28 January 2019 and has before it a Motion on Notice that is yet to be argued, seeking the same reliefs as were contained in the purported ex-parte application, to wit, the suspension of the CJN, amongst others.
We call on the Federal Government to avert the looming constitutional crisis precipitated by its ill-advised action.
In particular, the Nigerian Bar Association demands the reversal of the purported suspension of Honourable Mr Justice Walter S C Onnoghen, GCON.
We also call on the National Assembly to assert its constitutional authority and powers and prevent this slide into chaos and erosion of the Rule of Law.
Paul Usoro, SAN