- The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given its thought on the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen
- SERAP called for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to, within five days, take over from the Code of Conduct Tribunal
- The group however urged the NJC to ask the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to step aside pending the outcome of its investigation
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to, within five days, take over from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the case of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
SERAP further advised the NJC to set-up a committee to investigate alleged breach of assets declaration against Justice Onnoghen.
It also urged the NJC to ask Justice Onnoghen to step aside pending the outcome of its investigation.
In a letter to the NJC, SERAP senior legal adviser; Bamisope Adeyanju, said the NJC's intervention will help reverse Nigeria’s increasing movement toward anarchy or despotism.
Part of the letter read: “The urgent intervention by the NJC would remove the allegations against Justice Onnoghen from the vicissitudes of political controversy, and a clear and present danger to the independence and authority of the judiciary. It would also help to reverse the country’s increasing movement toward anarchy or despotism.
“Also, if following your investigation, the allegations against Justice Onnoghen is established, the NJC should refer the case to appropriate anti-corruption bodies for prosecution. Similarly, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed should recuse himself from the process, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“SERAP wants NJC to consider the issue of appointment of Justice Muhammed with a view to ensuring strict compliance with constitutional provisions. The NJC should take the recommended action within 5 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will take appropriate legal action to compel the NJC to take action on the case.
“This matter has inevitably thrown our country into a judicial-and-constitutional crisis, which if not urgently addressed would lead to political crisis that would seriously put at risk Nigeria’s fledgling democracy, consequently exacerbating the declining respect for human rights at all levels of government.”
SERAP urged the NJC not to fold its arms, “while the authority and independence of the judiciary is diminished to the point at which the citizens lose confidence and trust in its ability to render justice to those need.”
“SERAP is concerned that the politicization of our judiciary poses the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary, to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and would if not urgently addressed lead to denial of access to justice to the most marginalized and vulnerable section of the population,” Adeyanju said.
Meanwhile, the NJC has reportedly summoned an emergency meeting over the federal government’s suspension of Onnoghen, over alleged non-declaration of assets before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
A member of the NJC, on Sunday, January 27, revealed that the meeting was called by some NJC members in line with its rules and will be held in Abuja by 10am on Monday, January 28.
The source said the recently suspended Onnoghen would neither attend the meeting nor will Ibrahim Muhammad who is now the acting CJN.
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