Onnoghen: Only a transparent process can guarantee sanity -Abuja residents
Following the controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Nigerians have been divided on both sides of opinion, for and against. For some Abuja residents who spoke to Ere-Ebi AGEDAH and William ABAH, while the CJN deserves to face his ‘sins,’ the Presidency must ensure the process of his removal is within instant laws of the nation. Excerpts:
OYEBOLA AJIBOYE: frankly, it is not the place of the presidency to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria. This country has laws and thrives by the rule of law. In no way should we deviate from our legal system. I consider what happened as an abuse of power which can proof to be fatal especially for our democracy if future administrations decide to follow suit.
One moment we act as if we are following the rule of law, but the next we are act like a country under military rule. I am of the opinion that the presidential system of government which Nigeria has adopted should be followed especially on delicate matters like this.
NELSON OWOICHO: Just before the Chief Justice of Nigeria was about to constitute the Panel to oversee the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Buhari suspended him.
I am not saying Onoghen is a saint. All I want is for the presidency to confirm that its action is within the ambit of the law so that the grass does not suffer when the elephants fight. I also suspect that some strong cabals are behind this, but we can never know.
ABDUL MUHAMMED: For me, the controversy over the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen is uncalled for. The criminal justice system is very clear on allegations of criminal act. What surprised me since this issue came into public knowledge was the sentiment that characterize it. There is no time frame in the constitution to decide when to investigate a criminal case.
If Onnoghen is suspected to have been involved in false asset declaration, I do not see reasons why people should question the president’s call for investigation and his subsequent suspension from office. To me, the law must take its course at any time, irrespective of who is involved.
However, the president jumped the legal procedure. He supposed to have taken the matter through the National Judicial Council and wait for their response, but the gravity of the offence committed is beyond this legal process. How?
The NJC is the only one that can try a judge and make their recommendations. But the CJN, can as well excuse himself from this exalted office, to allow justice to prevail. So for me, I do not think the president had in anyway interfered with the judiciary. What he did was a clear "check and balances, as enshrined in the constitution.
FARUK JIMOH: Well, this issue is one that requires deep legal interpretation in all directions. But to start with, I think the president had breached the legal procedures applied over such matters. The constitution is very clear on any allegation involving a CJN, and senior judges in the Supreme Court.
The National Judicial Council, NJC, is the only agency that has power to investigate any corrupt allegation against the CJN. What the president did was a clear violation of the constitution. The judiciary is an independent organ of government. That office is not like any other institution of government.
I'm not in any way supporting illegality, but due process must be applied to ensure equity at the end of the day. The controversy surrounding this case wouldn't have occurred, if the defined legal procedures were properly followed. You will agreed with me that this case has taken a dangerous dimension for the past three weeks since it came up.
It has overheated the polity and further divided Nigerians. For me, what is needed at a critical time like this, is to allow the rule of law to prevail, to ensure justice is done. If actually the CJN has not declared his full assets, he should be made to face the wrath of the law through proper judicial procedures so that Nigerians will not suspect any foul play.
MARYAM AMOS: The anti-corruption fight is indeed growing higher every day. But the way the government is going about it is not proper. It really needs to be sanitized with due process. We operate a presidential system of government where there is clear separation of powers. But what we see in Nigeria today is frequent interference by the executive on the other organs of government.
If the CJN, is indicted for corruption allegation, the constitution is there to be applied in dealing with such allegations. I was one of those persons that were happy when senior Judges are being tried for corruption cases two years ago. But in this case, the president had misfired. Again the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, has not also live up to their responsibility.
They know very well that before they can try any senior judge, especially the CJN, the National Judicial Council, NJC, must make a recommendation to them in that regard. Yet they accepted the trial. The problems we have in our governance system is the lack of independent institutions.
The issue of Onnoghen's trial came at a critical. If there is a suspected criminal case against anybody, it can be investigated and tried at any time. But what we are saying is that the provisional law in the constitution must be strictly adhered to. The CJN, has rights, in his position. He should be granted fair hearing through defined judicial procedure.