By Eric Elezuo
The Nigeria Bar Association has lent his weight to the avalanche of condemnations trailing the charges against the Chief Judge of Nigeria, Mr. Walter Onnoghen, and his proposed arraignment by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday, January 14, 2019 in Abuja.
Speaking through a statement titled Executive Assault on the Judiciary, with the theme: Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary must Stop, released and signed by its President, Mr. Paul Usoro, the NBA unequivocally “condemns this assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.”
Making reference to precedence such as Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), where it noted that the “Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him, ” and wondered why the Federal Government has suddenly deviated from the known norms.
It therefore, posited questions, some of which are:
- Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination?
- Could it be that it was misadvised?
- Or is this a naked show of power and force by agencies of the FGN?
- And why embark on the media trial of the CJN?
- Could it possibly be a coincidence that the current assault on the judiciary is taking place only weeks to the 2019 National Election?
The statement drew a parallel between the travails of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in the custody of CCT and the present case of the CJN, concluding that the FG is out to silence the other arms of government.
The NBA warned that the Federal Government and its agencies must desist from debasing the rule of law, and demand that the CCB follow due process in proceeding against the CJN by complying with Nganjiwa’s Judgment (supra) and other similar judicial precedents.
“This continuing attack on the justice sector must cease forthwith,” the statement concluded.
Below is the Full Statement of the NBA: