Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Femi Fani-Kayode have strongly condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, urging him to reverse the decision immediately.
On Friday afternoon, President Buhari suspended Mr. Onnoghen, who has been facing false asset charges for two weeks. He said the judge had become a taint on the judiciary and he was compelled to take radical measures to ease him out of office.
The president consequently swore in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed who is the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
In reaction through a statement, Bukola Saraki described the suspension of the CJN Onoghen as a coup against democracy and a deliberate attempt to endanger our hard-won democracy, adding that Buhari’s decision has “precipitated a constitutional crisis.” The statement reads:
“The suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Onnoghen by President Buhari is an action capable of undermining the nation’s judiciary, subverting the Constitution, intimidating judges, and creating uncertainty in the electoral process.
“By unilaterally suspending the CJN without following the provisions of the Constitution, President Buhari has sent a dangerous signal to the entire world that Nigeria is no longer a democratic nation and that we have returned to the old, jaded era of military dictatorship.
“Our Constitution makes no provision for the suspension of the nation’s highest judicial officer.
“The Constitution provides a clear process for the removal of the CJN and specifies the roles of the three arms of government, beginning from the National Judicial Council (NJC), the National Assembly and lastly, the Presidency — all have different roles to play in that process.
“There is no condition under which the President can usurp the powers of the other arms of government.
“I do not know where the President and his advisers got this idea of suspending the CJN on the so-called order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal but this is novel, disingenuous and alien to our laws.
“It is strange that President Buhari is claiming to be taking orders from a Tribunal which has been ordered by a superior court to halt all actions on the trial.
“With this action, President Buhari has initiated a process the consequence of which no one can predict. He has precipitated a Constitutional crisis.
“At this point, all democratic institutions in the country, the international community and democrats across the world should rise against this blatant act of impunity.
“We must jointly condemn this retrogressive, uncivilized and despotic measure.
“I call on President Buhari to immediately reverse this decision and allow the due process of the law to take its natural course.”
A senior member of Nigeria’s main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Femi Fani-Kayode also reacted to the suspension of the CJN by calling on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceeding against President Buhari.
Fani-Kayode said the president’s action is unacceptable, adding that Buhari has now removed all doubts that he is “a fascistic monster.” He said:
“For a president in a democracy to suspend the CJN is totally unacceptable, a clear breach of the rule of law and the Constitution and a manifest violation of the principle of separation of powers. If anyone thinks that we are practicing democracy in Nigeria that person needs to have their heads examined.”
“I call on the Senate President and the Speaker of the House to stop playing games to show courage and to begin impeachment proceedings against Buhari.
“That is the only way to stop this man from totally destroying our country and leading us to a civil war that may never end.”
He also alleged that Buhari was plotting to declare himself the winner of the presidential elections on February 16.
However, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai who is also a key ally of President Buhari, said the president’s action was appropriate, praising the president for the timely intervention.
Mr El-Rufai said Mr Onnoghen has shown traits of corruption and should not be allowed to maintain a seat as the nation’s chief justice.
SANITY NEEDS RESTORATION: About time this institutional gobbledygook and regionalization to justify admitted wrongdoing are confronted. Justice must not give way to legal gymnastics and absurd technicalities. I am solidly with PMB on this, as always!! https://t.co/vS9owyiuqL
— Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (@elrufai) January 25, 2019
“SANITY NEEDS RESTORATION: About time this institutional gobbledygook and regionalization to justify admitted wrongdoing are confronted. Justice must not give way to legal gymnastics and absurd technicalities. I am solidly with PMB on this, as always!!” the governor wrote on his verified Twitter handle.