Nigeria Chief Justice Onnoghen Must Resign Now! El-Rufai Insist
Nigeria Chief Justice Onnoghen Must Resign Now! El-Rufai Insist
• Southern, Middle Belt leaders want due process on Onnoghen
• Court adjourns suits halting CJN’s arraignment
• Minister behind plot to destroy judiciary, Wike alleges
Kaduna State ruling Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen to step down to protect the institution he represents. He noted that in law, forgetting to fill the Assets Declaration Form cannot be an excuse. The Governor stated this yesterday while featuring on Sunrise Programme of Channels TV, which was monitored by our correspondent.
He said:“all the arguments being made that the allegations against the CJN should first go to the National Judicial Council (NJC) were wrong.”
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“The admission that I did not declare my assets, that infraction alone, is enough for him to step down and protect the institution. All these court orders and lawyers are not helping the judiciary or the legal practice and are not helping Nigeria.”
He also said, “The man has admitted that “I did not declare my asset, I forgot”. If the matter was simply that the Code of Conduct Bureau has made an allegation and filed charges in the tribunal, I will presume innocence, but I have seen a written statement by the Chief Justice saying that “…yes I have these accounts, yes I did not declare them, but I forgot”. Forgetting is not a defence in law.
The governor said it was wrong to claim that the NJC ought to have looked into the allegations against the CJN before arraign him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“The constitution is very clear, if the matter has to do with Code of Conduct of public officers, the only court, the only tribunal vested with the power to consider the violations of that code is the Code of Conduct Tribunal. It can try anyone, including the President.
“The NJC is supposed to take petitions on the professional misconduct of Judges; if a Judge kills or steals, it is not NJC, it is the regular court. You cannot say the NJC is a self-appointed court, a special court that will first have to clear judges before they go to regular court.”
El-Rufai faulted South-South governors for looking at the CJN issue through a tribal lens, saying “My colleagues – governors that ought to know better are issuing statements based on where the Chief Justice came from. That is wrong. That is sad.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the prosecution of Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and resort to due process. It said this while reacting to a move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to question Mr. Yinka Odumakin, a spokesman for the forum, and Femi Fani-Kayode, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, over online posts suggesting operatives of the commission had carried out a raid at the CJN’s residence.
The SMBLF is a responsible organisation, made of prominent statesmen of Nigeria that have served and are still serving and contributing immensely to our great country, Nigeria. The information and statement about the siege on the neighborhood of the CJN originated from the CJN’s residence, while this body was in a meeting in Abuja.
“We could not have manufactured such a statement if the alarm was not raised from the house of the CJN. It is therefore not fake news. This body only acted promptly to forestall any untoward incidence of arrest or embarrassment on the person of the CJN,” said the forum in a statement yesterday.
SMBLF said: “We strongly advise the EFCC not to do anything by way of carrying out its threat of arrest and detention of former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and Mr. Yinka Odumakin, on account of this statement which has attracted denials. Arrests and detention of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Mr. Yinka Odumakin on account of this incident can only exacerbate the already tensed situation in the polity.“We want to further caution that any attempt to intimidate and harass any of our members concerning this issue or in any other guise would be stoutly resisted.”
SMBLF said the directive by the Federal Government to freeze Onnoghen’s bank accounts, was an “inglorious exercise” which is “completely unnecessary.” It described the move as “a further deliberate attempt to harass and embarrass the high office of the CJN.”
Also a Federal High Court, Abuja, adjourned till January 28 suits seeking to stop the Federal Government from arraigning the CJN.Justice Evelyn Maha cited irregular service of court processes on the respondents. She further directed that respondents be properly served and the dates and time of such services be disclosed in a certificate.She insisted that the initial order made against the respondents over plans to arraign the CJN at the CCT still subsists.
The CJN was to be arraigned at the CCT on Monday over alleged non-declaration of assets. But two groups, Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative and the Incorporated Trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management, approached the High Court, seeking to restrain the Federal Government from proceeding. Ruling on the two ex-parte applications, Maha ordered that parties maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the suits and adjourned the matter till yesterday for hearing on the motions.
At the resumed sitting yesterday however, counsel to the plaintiff,Rafiu Lawal-Rabana, informed the court that the business of the day was the hearing on the motion on notice.He disclosed that all the respondents to the suit have been served with the processes except the senate president. He therefore prayed the court for a short adjournment to ensure that the lawmaker is served.
The judge consequently asked Dr. Garba Tetengi, who announced appearance for the fourth respondent (National Judicial Council) and the only respondent who was in court whether he was served.The counsel confirmed that he had been served with the processes. He also stated that he had no objection to the request for a short adjournment. Maha held that the proof of service was not accompanied with a certificate itemising each of the processes served on each of the respondents.
She then ordered the counsel to the plaintiffs to file a proper proof of service or regularise the service and ensure that the senate president was served.Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai meanwhile has berated governors of the southsouth geopolitical zone over their alleged bias on the CJN’s ordeal.
But Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike toed a different line, blaming Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi for Onnoghen’s travail.He made the allegation during a PDP campaign rally in Eleme yesterday.“At that meeting in Abuja, last Monday, Amaechi confessed that he is the person behind the illegal crisis facing the CJN. He bragged that he would destroy the CJN the way he brought former President Goodluck Jonathan down. He wants to destroy the nation’s judiciary. This particular evil will finally consume Amaechi,” Wike said.