Below is an article written by Audu Bulama Bukarti on the recent suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
“Given the supersonic speed at which the CCB & CCT are moving and the uncharacteristic enthusiasm of the FG to comply with judicial orders, I am suspicious of the motive behind the prosecution of the CJN.
I am also concerned with the time of the whole thing. But this is just a marginal note; a statement by the wayside. I will keep it for another day.
Now, turning to the topic at hand, I do not see anything wrong or illegal with the suspension of the CJN and swearing-in yesterday of Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko. The action of PMB is constitutional. Nay, he had a duty to act in the way he did. Here are my seven reasons:
1. PMB did not act on his own motion. He acted on an Order of the CCT.
2. The CCT has an inherent power under Section 6 of the Constitution to issue any order that will promote the Rule of Law and ensure the smooth conduct of its proceedings. I believe this order does both. See point 7 below.
3. Some lawyers have argued that CCT’s Order is illegal or even unconstitutional. But this is not PMB’s business. He can’t question the legality of a judicial decision as doing so will tantamount to the president sitting on appeal on the Judgement of a Court.
4. Under our constitutional system, PMB has no option than to obey the said Order. That is why we have been urging him to obey the Orders on Dasuki and Zakzaky. I repeat the same call here today;
5. The provisions of Section 292 cited by the NBA and others do not apply to this matter as the CJN was not “removed”. He was “suspended” pursuant to a valid and subsisting Order. The removal envisaged by and under Section 292 of the Constitution means “the dismissal of someone from a job” while suspension as in the present case means “[to] temporarily prevent from continuing or being in force or effect.”
6. The CJN is the head of the all Nigerian courts and Judiciary as well as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council which, under his Chairmanship, exercises supervisory and disciplinary role on all judges and judicial officer in Nigeria. This means any decision reached by CCT may likely go on appeal up to the Supreme Court where the CJN is at the helm of affairs.
7. It is against the rule of Natural Justice for Justice Onneghen to remain the CJN and Chairman NJC while facing trial under the same judges whose promotions, disciplinary and other related matters are under him;
8. I believe this action will facilitate quick dispensation of justice in this matter. Before the Order, the “generous SANs” representing the “poor” CJN had started taking steps that are clearly intended to frustrate his trial. They had started raising frivolous issues and making empty applications because they knew that their client had an upper hand. Now that he has been suspended, the defence counsel will be serious to prosecute the matter to its conclusion so that their client might be reinstated as quickly as possible if he is not found guilty.
9. Assuming, without conceding, that there are any anomalies in the procedure adopted. I would rather forgo any such anomalies for the crushingly disappointing alleged acts of the person who is supposed to hold those who violate our laws to account. I feel we must get the bottom of the allegations against the CJN whatever and punish him if he is guilty.”