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ONNOGHEN’S SAGA; NIGERIA’S CALL

The sack of the chief justice of Nigeria and the head of the judiciary, the third arm of government by President Buhari is a classic case of the kind of circumstance that inspired the opening line of our national anthem : “Arise O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey!

I heard the call clearly the moment I heard the news of the sack of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by president Buhari. It is still ringing in my ears with inexorable persistence. I can no longer wait to conclude the on going upgrade of my blog which has seen me seemly silent over burning national issues for some time now.

The latest ill advised action of the president conveys an unmistakable message- “Comrade Napoleon is here!”

First was the reluctance, nay, initial refusal of the president to appoint Onnoghen to the exalted office; it took not only the activism of the bar and several right groups but also the absence of the president on sick leave for Onnoghen to be sworn by the Acting President. It has remained a matter of conjecture whether the recommendation of the NJC would have meant anything if our righteous president was not absent on a medical trip.

It has become apparent that that fight never ended. Onnoghen must have been hounded from day one. Agents of the government must have been sniffing around him just to find any thing at all that can give him a bad name. The dog work may have paid off. Maybe not yet. But it does not matter to the forces that want him out of office. If it looks leprous, it certainly is leprosy. No need for the doctor to conduct an examination and give an informed opinion.

Suddenly, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, an inferior court in our jurisprudence exhibited uncommon zeal and supersonic speed in the running of its affairs. The goal was to arraign, prosecute and as the latest development in the matter shows, convict the Chief justice of Nigeria. The NBA with a number of senior lawyers rose to the occasion. The tribunal received erudite submissions on its jurisdiction. But the tribunal appeared to have reached a decision before the hasty charges were even drafted. The learned counsel in the matter approached the higher courts to intervene and expectedly the tribunal was directed to stay proceedings. But the tribunal chairman apparently is ahead of the rest of us. No need to pretend, there is no rule of law any more. He simply chose to ignore the decisions of the superior courts. Despite orders for stay of proceedings from superior courts, the inferior tribunal proceeded to make an ex parte order directing the suspension of the CJN from office. And the president promptly obeyed. How convenient!

Section 292(2) of the Nigerian constitution provides in unequivocal terms that the president can only remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria from office on an address supported by two – thirds majority of the senate. In the face of this unambiguous provision of our law, the president’s action is a combined insult and assault on the two other organs of government. No responsible citizen should fold his arms and pretend that all is well. Nothing is well. An assault on our democratic institutions is a threat to our very corporate existence. This is beyond politics. We must insist on the rule of law. It is not a fight for lawyers or the judiciary. Anyone who thinks so is in a slumber. If we sit and watch the total emasculation of the other arms of government, it would be too late or too costly to do anything when the evil curtain of totalitarianism covers our land.

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5 thoughts on “ONNOGHEN’S SAGA; NIGERIA’S CALL

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  1. I’ve been an apologist of the fight against corruption, for obvious reasons. But my problem has always been the modus operandi; the seeming selectivity in the so-called fight. The executive has advertently or otherwise demonstrated citizens inequality before the law in its policy implementation, especially on corruption.

    With respect to justice Onnoghen, the law clearly spells out the mode of discipline and removal of an erring head of court. Why was the law as contain in Sec.292(2) and others not followed? Of what use is any “fight” if the rule of engagement is violated. Observance of the law is as important as the fight against corruption.

    It is important that Government is seen and perceived as impartial by citizens, in the execution of its policies to engender a sense of belonging. There are petitions of more scandalous nature and court orders lying fallow before the executive. The swiftness with which its responded and acted in this instance evokes more questions than answers. Clearly the Head is ill-advised.

  2. I am sure the writer of the piece under consideration is not knowledgeable enough to write on the subject matter. I found his write-up misleading by stating that the Code of Conduct Tribunal is an inferior Court. This is absolutely wrong. The Code of Conduct Tribunal is a Superior Court of Record with coordinate Jurisduction with the Federal High Court. Appeal from the judgment of the Tribunal lies to the Court of Appeal. So why should the writer misled the public that the Tribunal is an inferior Court? The Tribunal is a creation of the Constitution with enormous powers to deal with public officers from the position of the President and below who failed to abide by the provisions of the Code of Conduct for public officers.

    1. Dear Umar, thank you for your comments. However, I do not think your view on the status of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is the correct position of the law. In the case of METUH V. FRN (2017) ALL FWLR PT.901 the Supreme Court had this to say: “This court pronounced also in SARAKI V. FRN (2016) 3 NWLR (PT. 1500) 531 that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is not a court of superior record of jurisdiction but a court of quasi -criminal jurisdiction”. Prior to this time, the Court of Appeal had in N.E.C.V. NZERIBE (1991)5 NWLR (PT 192) held that “A tribunal, no matter how highly clothed with power is still a tribunal and so an inferior court and subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of a superior court of record, such as the High Court of Lagos.”

      In the light of the above cited cases, I think with respect that it would rather be misleading to ascribe to the CCT a status which it clearly does not have.

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