By Patrick Obia
The resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen has continued to draw mixed reactions from Nigerians with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Cross River State, Mr. Joseph Abang and other legal practitioners faulting the processes that led to Mr. Onnoghen’s decision to retire.
Abang who said the country has never been so divided, told host of ‘The Dialogue With Agba Jalingo,’ a topical issues program on Hit FM Calabar that the trial saga of the Biase born judicial officer was a “comedy of errors.”
“I will tell you that everything that happened for me is a comedy of errors and two wrongs you know cannot make a right. If Onnoghen has resigned as speculated, I do not know what becomes the decision of the NJC and the fact that, the senate needs to have two-third of the votes to ask the president to either retire or sack the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“If his resignation has come as the result of the Nigeria Judicial Council recommending to the president to the retirement of the CJN, I wouldn’t know; has due process been followed? Do the NJC make the recommendation to the president through the senate or they make the recommendations direct to the president?
“He was only called upon to say guilty or not guilty because all that supposed to have done was ignored and then he was called upon to come and fight for his job which some who are not Lawyers have condemned in a very strong term. Our country has not been divided as it is today and with the persecution of the legislators; the senate president and now the CJN. The implication of all these, is that, the executive arm which is supposed to be independent between the legislature and the judiciary, now have put the other two arms in the situation where they can depend only on the executive for their survival. For me this is not good for our democracy,” Abang said.
The former President of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Mr. Olasupo Ojo, described the trial saga of Mr. Onnoghen as the intention of the executive to “rubbish him” without due process.
“The trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the way everything happened; it was so clear, very very clear that the executive has made up its mind never to tolerate issue, not for any other legitimate reason,” Ojo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
He continued: “They have also violated rules of due process and to the extent that even before the trial it was well known their intension was to rubbish him and made it impossible for him to continue his office as a chief judge in Nigeria.”
For Mr. Mohammed Fawenhinmi who is the Head, Gani Faweninmi chambers, the true independence of the judiciary remained far from existence even as he queried the processes leading to Justice Onnoghen’s suspension.
Fawenhinmi who called the strengthening of the judiciary in order to checkmate the excesses of the other two arms of government, stressed that: “We must, we must strive for the independence of the judiciary.”
Also, he sought a review of the status of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which he said has made the executive to become judge, jury and executioner in cases handled by the tribunal.
Onnoghen who was appointed a Supreme Court Justice in 2005, was nominated by the NJC as the Chief Justice of Nigeria which he resumed in acting capacity on October 6, 2016. He was not confirmed till March 7, 2017 prompting sentimental statements that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari was not disposed to the idea of him being Chief Justice.
However, he continued and following a petition written against him in January, he was arraigned less than two weeks later at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on six count charge bordering on false assets declaration.
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