US, EU express concern over suspension of Onnoghen

Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Government of the United States of America and the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria for the 2019 general elections have expressed concern over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The United States and the EU EOM made their concerns known in separate statements made available, in Abuja.

Reacting through its Public Affairs Section of the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, the United States said it was deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.

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“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch.

“That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.

“We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria.

“Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process,” the United States said.

On its part, the EU EOM, in a statement by its  Press and Public Outreach Officer, Sarah Fradgley, said it is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of Onnoghen.

It further said with 20 days to the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.

The EU EOM also said the decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed.

It added that the timing, just before the swearing in of justices for electoral tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, had also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.

“The European Union was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the 2019 general elections.

“The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.

“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.

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“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed.

“The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice,” the EU said.

The EU EOM, however, called on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.

The EU EOM further said it will “continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities.”

The post US, EU express concern over suspension of Onnoghen appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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