Mixed Reactions have continued to trail the suspension of the Chief justice of the Federation Justice Walter Onnoghen. While some consider a good a welcome development necessary to purge the nation of bad eggs in the judiciary, others have seen the development as executive overreach and a blatant disregard for the constitution of the country.
President Buhari had during the swearing in of the new acting Chief Justice, Justice tanko Muhammed noted that he removed Justice Onnoghen based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23, 2019.
Justice Tanko Mohammed who is next in line to Justice Walter Onnoghen was born on December 31, 1953 at Doguwa – Giade, a local government area in Bauchi state, Justice Muhammad attended Ahmadu Bello University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Law in 1980. He later obtained a master’s degree and doctorate from the same Ahmadu Bello University in 1984 and 1998 respectively.
The suspended Justice Onnoghen is facing trial for false declaration of asset and corruption at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He had earlier scheduled the appointment of the tribunal for Saturday.
Reacting to the development, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America has frowned at the latest development and cautioned the president on heating up the polity before a major election.
The United States Embassy, in a statement released expressed deep concerns over the development
“The Embassy of the United States is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.
“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.
The European Union also in a statement condemned the act as that which can affect the forthcoming general elections:
“The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.
“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.
“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed. The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.
“The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.
Reacting to the development, the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, cautioned the united state and the European Union and other foreign powers not to interfere in the country’s internal issues.
In a statement, Mr Shehu noted “Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all,” Mr Shehu wrote.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections.
The statement further stated,
“While we appreciate the interest of US and UK in evolving healthy democracies around the world, particularly in Nigeria, we will appreciate it more if these countries show equal concern for Nigeria’s war against corruption, particularly in the judiciary and in the repatriation of Nigeria’s looted funds in those two countries. Advanced democracies are not under any special obligation to listen only to the opposition and echo its propaganda. They also owe it a moral duty to hear the government’s side before making policy statements.