- The presidency assured the US, UK and EU that the 2019 election will be free and fair
- In a statement by Garba Shehu, the presidency said Walter Onnoghen's suspension has nothing to do with the election
- Shehu said Onnoghen has also not been permanently removed
The presidency has again sent a message to the US, UK and EU assuring them that the suspension of the chief justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen is not related to the coming general elections.
In a statement issued by Garba Shehu on Sunday, January 27, the presidency said it appreciated the concern of three ‘friends’ of the country but assured that the election will be free and fair.
He said: “The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy. This is unfortunate. But this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation.
The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives.
CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing.
"The CJN was brought before the CCT because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration. This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.
"All credible evidence indicates the CJN owned and operated several secret bank accounts. Unexplained large sums of money, exceeding several million dollars have passed through these accounts. Several thousand dollars are currently parked in the accounts. Multiple deposits of equal sums of money were deposited in some of those accounts during the same day. Such rapid and equal deposits are indicative of a person attempting to evade banking reporting laws and regulations.”
The presidency said the suspended CJN has still not provided any explanation to the undeclared fund.
“Thus far, CJN Onnoghen has given no plausible explanation for the funds or for failing to report the subject accounts in his assets declaration despite having ample time and opportunity to explain the omission. Given the amount of money involved and the CJN’s inability to explain the source of the funds, the most plausible explanation at this point is also the most unfortunate explanation. No one did this to CJN Onnoghen. He and he alone is to blame for this turn of events.
“Because of this he has been thoroughly discredited. It is untenable that a person in such compromised circumstances would be allowed to preside over the entire judicial system of a great nation. That would travesty the nation and what it stands for.”
Shehu said the US, UK and EU would not tolerate a similar happening if it happened in their countries. He insisted that Onnoghen has not been permanently removed or replaced but only suspended.
He said: “Last, the three make a curious direct linkage between the CJN suspension and the elections. However, in Nigerian law there is no such linkage. The CJN does not run the election. Nor is he the first arbiter of any electoral complaints. He and the Supreme Court will only get involved as the final arbiter at the end of the appellate process.
“For the authors to link the CJN to the elections in this way is illogical unless they assume that election complaints will be filed and will go all the way to the Supreme Court. Here perhaps they know something about the intentions of certain political actors to which we are not privy.
“Yet, even with that, the US , UK and EU should want any such matters to be heard by a Supreme Court led by a CJN without an obvious and outstanding ethical and legal blemish on his ledger. To have such a person preside over any case, would call into question the impartiality of any decision rendered and undermine the rule of law.
“This cannot be what these three friends of Nigeria intended. Thus, they should do a bit more research on this matter and refrain from being too hastily attracted by the arguments of those who have partisan agenda at odds with the government’s positions on most matters and who thus hope to use this issue as a new arrow in their quiver of partisan contestations.”
Legit.ng had reported earlier that Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, the new acting CJN swore in 250 members of the general elections tribunal.
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During the swearing-in ceremony held in in Abuja on Saturday, Muhammed admonished the members of the election tribunals to carry out their duties with integrity and godly fear in their hearts.
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