NBA Also Against Trial.
Five out of the six governors of the South-South Governors Forum have asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, not to honour the summons from the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The Bureau had asked the CJN to appear before the Code of Conduct tribunal for alleged non-declaration of assets.
The governors made the call after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Sunday.
“We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called Court summon from the CCB and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters,” the governors said in a communique issued after the meeting.
“While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law.”
The meeting was attended by the governors of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers. Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State who is a member of the All Progressives Congress, was absent.
Bayelsa State Governor, Mr Seriake Dickson, who is the Chairman of the forum had summoned the emergency meeting on Saturday after the CCT announced that the CCB had filed six charges against the CJN with the trial scheduled to start on Monday.
In the communique, which was read by Governor Dickson after the meeting, the governors said the move by the CCB was unacceptable.
They argued that the legal procedures for investigating allegations of misconduct against judicial officials were not followed in that matter and accused the executive of targetting other arms of government.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state on institutions of state including the National Assembly and judiciary,” they said.
To them, the move is reflective “of the South-South story of endless marginalization and intimidation”.
“The unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement is still very fresh,” they added.
“We not that that unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular, the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law.”
NBA Kicks Against Trial
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lekki Forum, Lagos State on Sunday also condemned the planned trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The forum, after an emergency meeting in Lagos, described the trial as a premeditated clamp down on the highest office of the judicial arm of government.
In a statement jointly signed by Mr Oladotun Hassan and Mr Ayo Ademiluyi, Chairman and Secretary of the forum respectively, the group said that the CCT lacked the requisite jurisdiction to try the CJN
It further said any attempt to remove the CJN was unconstitutional.
“This is an unconventional and unconstitutional attempt to ambush and remove His Lordship, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as the Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“This petition to the CCT for immediate trial on Monday Jan. 14, 2019, is highly regrettable.
“Seeing some members of the judiciary, including Lawyers, serving as destructive tools to the executive, calls for total condemnation,’’ the NBA officials said.
The NBA said the judiciary should be accorded the freedom to conduct its affairs without fear of interference, intimidation, threat or ill-will from outside forces as was obtained in other democracies.
The forum added that the NJC was established under the Constitution and specifically given the power to discipline any of its Judicial officers for misconduct in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 21 (b) Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“May we state clearly that no judicial officer is covered by immunity from prosecution under the Constitution, but grants the powers to discipline erring officers for misconduct to the NJC.
“The CCT absolutely lacks the requisite jurisdiction to try the CJN without laid down legal procedure and due process.
“Therefore non-compliance with mandatory provisions of the Constitution has the inevitable consequences of rendering the proceedings a nullity,’’ the NBA said.
It described the action as an unpardonable fundamental defect, as the allegations against the CJN were never referred to the National Judicial Council (NJC) before criminal charges were entered against him.