By Lateef Ibrahim
Sixty-seven political parties on Monday protested against the suspension of the Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen by the Federal Government describing it as “illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.”
The parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), said like every other concerned stakeholder and Nigerian, they were very disturbed by the illegal suspension of the CJN and the swearing in of an acting CJN.
The described both actions as “illegal and foreign to our constitution”.
According to them, “The CJN, as a judicial officer, can only be removed from office by the President acting on an address supported by two thirds majority of the Senate for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.
“Anything contrary to this procedure is unconstitutional and serves only to harm our democracy.
“Furthermore, the National Judicial Council, (NJC), has not recommended the suspension or removal of the CJN, neither has it exercised any disciplinary action against the CJN. Thus the purported suspension of the CJN by President Buhari must fail”, the 67 parties stated.
The parties’ in a joint document endorsed by all of them, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to do the right thing and reverse the suspension of the CJN immediately.
The statement reads: “We emphatically state here that the purported suspension of the CJN is unequivocally illegal, indefensible and thus unconstitutional.
“The improper process adopted by President Mohammadu Buhari, in suspending the CJN and in appointing Justice Tanko Mohammed as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, is seen by a majority of Nigerians as based on an improperly obtained Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, thus making it illegal.
“Furthermore, it is unconstitutional because it violates and goes against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Painfully, the actions of President Buhari is intended and contrived to precipitate a constitutional crisis in our dear country and further polarize Nigeria unnecessarily.
“It should be noted that the office of the CJN is not a ministerial position, rather it is a creation of Sections 230(1)(a) and 231(1) & (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That office, the CJN, is the head of an independent arm of our tripartite government
“It should also be noted that the removal of the CJN is addressed in our Constitution in Section 292, wherein a strict process is outlined and must be followed.
“Generally, the three independent arms of the government must be involved in both instances of appointment and removal of the CJN. Thus, the president, in acting alone and unilaterally, lacks the power and authority to suspend the Chief Justice of the Federation.
“President Buhari’s purported suspension of the CJN in reliance on the improperly obtained and improperly issued Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which is actually under the Executive Branch, is to put it mildly, wrong, misplaced, ill-conceived and deserving of immediate reversal.