Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s act of suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has come under heavy criticism from Nigerians as well as foreign governments. The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union have all come forward to express serious concern over President Buhari’s controversial suspension of Onnoghen.
While Buhari claims that he relied on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to suspend Mr. Onnoghen from office and appoint a replacement, the decision doesn’t seem to be in line with Nigeria’s Constitution’s Section 292 that says only the National Judicial Council could recommend sanctions against a federal judge. It further states that the Nigerian Senate first considers such recommendations and then forwards its findings to the president before a decision to remove the federal judge is finally taken.
The former chief justice has been facing trial before the tribunal for alleged false asset declaration and concealing some of his bank accounts, which contained a large number of dollars and other foreign currencies before taking office in 2017.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), described Onnoghen’s suspension by Buhari as an unlawful, anti-democratic act, reported The Punch.
In a statement on Twitter, Atiku noted that Buhari’s action has exposed the desperation of the Federal Government to win the upcoming elections by all means.
“The purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, is an anti-democratic act which I reject in its entirety and call on Justice Onnoghen and the judiciary to resist with every legal and constitutional means that they can muster,” Atiku wrote.
Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), has also condemned Onnoghen’s suspension, describing it as a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
The decision comes just three weeks before the general election takes place in Nigeria. Mr. Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed has been appointed as the acting CJN in place of Ommoghen.