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.