The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in separate statements, on Sunday in Abuja,have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to change tactics in handling the controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, said the President was aware that he had no such powers on the Onnoghen case, but justified his action by claiming he was obeying a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), before which Mr Onnoghen is standing trial.
“The Tribunal however, has no such powers, and the CDD strongly avers that the President must backtrack from his action as a prerequisite for resolving the quagmire and resolving the predicament we find ourselves in as a country.
“Mr Onnoghen had himself presided over the establishment of the jurisprudence for suspension of all judicial officers charged for wrongdoing. He, therefore, had an absolute responsibility to step down immediately and allow the NJC deliberate and take a decision on the matter.
“Instead of taking the irresponsible action to stop the 88th statutory meeting of the NJC scheduled to hold on January 15, 2019, which could have deliberated on the matter and taken a proper decision based on the facts of the case and precedent”, she said.
The TMG chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, on her part and on behalf of the over 400 CSOs, said the abrupt suspension of Chief Justice Onnoghen is an attack by the Presidency against the judiciary, one which is ill-advised and poorly timed.
She also added that the move by the President only gives a perception to the public and others alike that the President will not be committed to a free and fair election, coming this February general elections.
“Of utmost importance in the electoral process, is the impartiality of the election petition tribunals. The recent happenstances have placed serious credibility question on the tribunals, who will be faced with the uphill task of proving that their adjudication of election cases would not be tilted to favour the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Apart from the credibility problems, the action against the CJN has created the perception in the public that the President is not committed to standing by his promise to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. What the President has done is an abuse of power and taking advantage of his control of state apparatus to override the will of the court system”, she said.