***’We Reject Duplication of CJN’- PDP
***’I acted in obedience to the Rule of Law’- President Buhari
By Our Correspondent, theprofilenews.com
The main opposition party in Nigeria, Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, has rejected the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the nation’s Chief Justice and subsequent swearing-in of the Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed JSC, as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
According to a release today signed by its, National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP insisted that Justice Onnoghen remained the world’s most populous black nation’s Chief judiciary officer.
It will be recalled that President Buhari, few hours ago, suspended the immediate-past CJN, Onnoghen, basing his decision on the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The President’s address announcing the suspension reads thus in full: A short while ago, I was served with an Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued on Wednesday 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen from office pending final determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and several other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
“The nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a Civil Society Organization first became public about a fortnight ago.
“Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.
“Perhaps more worrisome is the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing ’’mistake’’ and ’’forgetfulness’’ which are totally unknown to our laws as defences in the circumstances of his case.
“One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.
“Unfortunately, he has not done so. Instead, the nation has been treated to the sordid spectacle of a judicial game of wits in which the Chief Justice of Nigeria and his legal team have made nonsense of the efforts of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to hear the allegation on merit and conclude the trial as quickly as possible considering the nature of the times in which we live.
“Whether deliberately or inadvertently, we have all seen the full weight of the Chief Justice of Nigeria descend on the tender head of one of the organs of justice under his control. There is simply no way the officers of that court, from the Chairman to the bailiffs, can pretend to be unaffected by the influence of the leader of the Judiciary.
“Not only the trial court, but others have been put on the spot. Practically every other day since his trial commenced, the nation has witnessed various courts granting orders and counter-orders in favour of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, all of them characterised by an unholy alacrity between the time of filing, hearing and delivery of judgment in same.
“The real effect has been a stalling of the trial of Justice Onnoghen, helped along by lawyers who insist that these orders, whether right or wrong are technically valid, and must be obeyed till an appellate Court says otherwise. No doubt that it is the proper interpretation, but is it right disposition for our nation?.
“Nigeria is a constitutional democracy and no one must be, or be seen to be, above the law. Unfortunately, the drama around the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria has challenged that pillar of justice in the perception of the ordinary man on the street. For it is certain that no ordinary Nigerian can get the swift and special treatment Justice Onnoghen has enjoyed from his subordinates and privies in our Judicature.
“In the midst of all these distracting events, the essential question of whether the accused CJN actually has a case to answer has been lost in the squabble over the form and nature of his trial. This should not be so.
“If Justice cannot be done and clearly seen to be done, society itself is at risk of the most unimaginable chaos. As a Government, we cannot stand by wailing and wringing our hands helplessly but give our full backing and support to those brave elements within the Judiciary who act forthrightly, irrespective of who is involved.
“As you are all aware, the fight against corruption is one of the tripod of policies promised to Nigerians by this administration. Needless to say that it is an existential Policy which must be given adequate attention and commitment by all the three arms of government. The efforts of the Executive will amount to nothing without the cooperation of the Legislature and especially the Judiciary.
“It is no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted by the trial and appellate courts.
“Since there is nothing the Executive Arm can do after the apex court of the land has spoken on any matter, several of these individuals walk free among us today, enjoying what are clearly the proceeds of the corruption which for so long has defeated the efforts of this nation to develop and prosper.
“It is against this background that I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing me to suspend the Chief Justice pending final determination of the cases against him. It also explains why I am not only complying immediately, but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by these anomalies.
“In line with this administration’s avowed respect for the Rule of Law, I have wholeheartedly obeyed the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated 23rd January 2019.
“Accordingly, I hereby suspend the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, GCON as the Chief Justice of Nigeria pending final determination of the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“In further compliance with the same Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I hereby invite Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed JSC, being the next most Senior Justice in the Supreme Court, to come forward to take the Judicial Oath as Chief Justice of Nigeria in an Acting Capacity.
Fellow Nigerians, we can only stand a chance to win the fight against Corruption, and position our dear nation for accelerated development when we stand together to contend against it”.
But in its release, the PDP’s Publicity Secretary who is also Director, Media & Publicity PDP Presidential Campaign Organization (PPCO), said: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejects in its entirety, the attempts by President Muhammadu Buhari to foist an illegal Chief Justice on the nation while the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen is still in office.
“The PDP firmly holds that such impunity cannot stand, as Nigeria is a nation governed by law and not by the whims and caprices of a dictatorial leader. President Buhari wants to ruin our country and we will never allow him.
The PDP says Nigerians must reject the incendiary move by President Buhari to forcefully suspend our constitution, annex the judicial arm of government and open the nation up for full-blown totalitarianism to achieve his self-succession bid, having realized that he cannot win in the 2019 general election.
“President Buhari’s action in attempting to unilaterally appoint a Chief Justice and foist him on our country is a direct invitation to anarchy, national confusion and a monumental crisis capable of derailing our democracy and destroying our corporate existence as a nation.
It is now clear to the world that President Buhari, in his selfish self-succession bid, is out to cause mayhem in our nation and truncate the smooth conduct of the 2019 election, not minding the consequential human and material losses.
“There can be no two Chief Justices of Nigeria. Our constitution is clear on how a Chief Justice is appointed and removed as such does not lie on the prerogative of the President. As such, we urge all Nigerians and the international community to recognize only Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Furthermore, the PDP invites the international community and particularly the United States and the United Kingdom to note that this assault on the judiciary is geared towards subverting the 2019 general elections and as such immediately list President Buhari and APC leaders for proposed sanctions on election riggers and perpetrators of violence in the general election.
The world already knows how the Buhari administration has trying to compromise the electoral process, including the refusal to sign the amendment to the Electoral Act, as well as the foisting of Mr. President’s relation by marriage, Mrs. Amina Zakari to coordinate the collation of Presidential election results.
“The PDP wants President Buhari to know that this nation belongs to all Nigerians. Our nation is a democratic state governed by the constitution and the law and Nigerians will never allow anybody to appropriate rulership to himself outside the dictates of the law.
President Buhari tried to forcefully remove the leadership of the National Assembly and fail. His attempt to annex the judiciary and impose a Chief Justice that will surrender the judiciary to him, is also already dead on arrival.
Finally, the PDP calls on the National Assembly to immediately reconvene and proceed with legislative actions against President Buhari for this gross misconduct”.