President Muhammadu Buhari`s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen is the most brazen assault on Nigeria`s constitutional history. The President has obviously not listened to the advice of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation or the Attorney General of the Federation has misadvised him or both.
President Buhari claims that the suspension of the Chief Justice Onnoghen is pending the determination of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. This is simply not true. The CCT itself adjourned proceedings in respect of Justice Onnoghen`s matter in order to determine if it had jurisdiction to try Justice Onnoghen. The President`s decision contravenes the Ruling of the CCT.
There are at least six (6) pending cases in superior courts of Nigeria and one in the Court of Appeal. All these cases ruled that Justice Onnoghen should remain in office pending when all cases against him are resolved. These Rulings bind the President of Nigeria. In any case, Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria sets out the procedure for removing or suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The power to suspend or remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria vests in the Senate side of the National Assembly.
For all these reasons the purported suspension of Chief Justice Onnoghen is the gravest insult to the Nigerian constitution in history.It is difficult to understand how President Buhari will expect my vote of confidence in the February polls if he wantonly denigrates and desecrates our Constitution.
I call on all Nigerians to take the strongest possible view of the President`s conduct. I am shocked that Mr Justice Mohammed Tanko would have offered himself to be sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
I call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to refuse to be pushed out of office. The NBA must rise to resist this assault to our constitution.
Our judges must rise; Civil Society Organizations must rise. This is potentially the beginning of our descent into constitutional anarchy.
Dr Olisa Agbakoba, OON, SAN.