Some opposition parties have rejected the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen.
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Mr Onnoghen on Friday and immediately swore in the next most senior judge at the Supreme Court, Tanko Mohammed, as the acting CJN.
The 1999 Constitution says a sitting CJN can only be removed from office by the president after at least two-thirds majority members of the Senate support such a move.
But Mr Buhari said he acted on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, criticising the suspension. He said Mr Buhari’s action was a desperate plot to subvert Nigeria’s democracy days into an election in which Nigerians are set to vote him out of office.
The PDP through a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, rejected “the attempts by President Buhari to foist an illegal Chief Justice on the nation while the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen is still in office.”
“PDP says Nigerians must reject the incendiary move by the President to forcefully suspend our constitution, annex the judicial arm of govt & open the nation up for full-blown totalitarianism to achieve his self-succession bid, having realised that he cannot win in the 2019 election.”
The party urged Nigerians to disregard the suspension and the latest appointment.
“There can be no two Chief Justices of Nigeria. Our constitution is clear on how a CJ is appointed and removed as such does not lie on the prerogative of the President. As such, we urge all Nigerians and the international community to recognize only Justice Onnoghen as the CJN.”
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), in a statement by one of its spokespersons, Ikenga Ugochinyere, described the development as a judicial coup which must be resisted.
“This brazen dictatorial act is the latest action in the ongoing rape of our nation’s hard-earned democracy by those who dined with anti-democratic forces, and is symptomatic of the increasing desperation that President Buhari and the cabal pulling the strings as February 16, 2019 draws near.
“As far as the law of the land is concerned, Onnoghen remains the CJN. We will not recognise any other person who may be occupying that office illegally. Justice Tanko Muhammed us a usurper. The NJC must sack him. Lawyers must ignore him as long as he remains on that seat.
“The CJN can be removed from office either if he has been convicted or if under section 291 and 292 of the Constitution, the Senate affirms a request by the President to remove him by two-thirds majority vote. Buhari has dared Nigerians.”
CUPP also urged the CJN to stay put in his office. It said the president has no power to suspend him.
“The Senate should reconvene now and start impeachment process against the President for acting against the provision of the Constitution he swore to uphold.”
The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Donald Duke, also condemned the suspension.
The former Cross Rivers State governor who spoke through his twitter handle on Friday, condemned the presidency for “blatant and arrogant display of power exhibited.
“While I’m glad the Appeal Court upheld my constitutional right to contest for the office of president of our country, I’m shocked at the blatant and arrogant display of power exhibited by the administration in the removal of the CJN and shamefully, Justice Tanko Mohammed accepts to be sworn in.
“They attempted removing the head of the legislative arm now it’s the judiciary. Atiku is NEXT. Wait and see.”
The Court of Appeal on Thursday reinstated Mr Duke as the SDP flag bearer after it overturned a lower court’s jedgment which affirmed Jerry Gana as the candidate.
It should be recalled that the Nigerian Bar Association also described the suspension of Mr Onnoghen as an outright coup and a step towards anarchy and demanded its immediate retraction.
The NBA rejected Mr Onnoghen’s replacement by Ibrahim Tanko and called on President Buhari to immediately reverse the suspension to avert a constitutional crisis.
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