The recent rushed removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the reactions that will continue to trail that action points to the fact that we are heading for a major constitutional crisis.
Expectedly, emergency meetings have been called by both the NBA and the NJC.
The senate, also has called its members for an emergency sitting as a result of this unfortunate development. It is indeed a week of crucial meetings the outcome of some or all of which will have far reaching implications on many aspects of our national life. Protests have already broken out in parts of the country, indications are strong that our economy is already under threat. No wonder both the United States and United Kingdom as well as the European Union have issued statements urging caution and a swift resolution of the self inflicted imbroglio
Not only our democracy, but the very spirit of the nation is put to test. We must work together as a people to come out stronger from this embarrassment.
For the executive, a realistic appraisal of the situation is called for. I believe the executive can still proceed with acts that would lead to the removal from office of the CJN should the circumstances and outcome of investigations by the appropriate body so warrant.
I am yet to hear any argument by those opposing the unilateral removal of the CJN by the executive that the CJN is above the law. No one has put up this argument. This position will be nothing short of ridiculous. The fine point of contest is and will remain whether the process prescribed by law was followed in dealing with the matter.
Supporters of the ill-advised assault on the third arm of government have tried to find support in the maxim that “No one is above the law” of course, this is true but the maxim is not discriminatory. It does not apply to some persons and not others. “No one” means no one. It does not permit of exceptions. The CJN is not above the law. Neither is the president.
The maxim simply means that the letters of the law must be followed without discrimination. It does not place the president or the executive arm of government above the law under whatever guise or excuse. It is meant to shield society from arbitrariness in the exercise of power. While the executive would do well by heeding the advice of concerned international community by swiftly taking steps to address the trending controversy, it is important that the Nigerian Bar Association, the National Judicial Council and indeed the senate will come out from their respective meetings taking a firm stand for the rule of law. The rule of laws is our guaranteed protection from anarchy. A twisted interpretation and application of the maxim relating to equality before the law will only have us grappling with a major constitutional crisis, we would be straddling an unruly horse which may take us all to an uncertain and regrettable destination.
I have faith that we can avoid this crisis. Nigeria calls.