From Fred Itua,
Godwin Tsa, James Ojo, Fred Ezeh, Abuja, From Layi
Olanrewaju, Ilorin, Judex Okoro,
Calabar, Sola Ojo, Kaduna.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) senators and their main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts are at the weekend preparing for a showdown at the tomorrow’s reopening of the Senate, beating war drums over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen and appointed Justice Tanko Mohammed, to serve in an acting capacity.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, issued a statement condemning Buhari’s action and insisted that the suspension was alien to the constitution of the country.
On Saturday, news filtered out that the Senate was going to reconvene tomorrow to take a position on the issue. Clerk to the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, in a statement released yesterday, urged senators to resume sitting in plenary on Tuesday.
However, Daily Sun gathered that the leadership of the Senate was expected to meet ahead of tomorrow’s resumption. The meeting was to be held yester night at an undisclosed location in Abuja, and be presided over by Saraki.
A senior aide to Saraki disclosed: “As I speak to you, the Senate President is still in Offa, Kwara State. He is holding campaign meetings. From here, we will go to Ilorin. I don’t know when we will finish from here. I am also aware that a meeting of principal officers is supposed to hold this night (last night). That is all I can say.”
Members of Buhari Parliamentary Support Group, headed by Abdullahi Adamu, are also expected to meet Buhari today.
Some APC lawmakers who spoke to Daily Sun said the outcome of their meeting would be made known when the Senate reconvenes tomorrow.
Kabiru Marafa said the meeting would hold today by 7.30pm at the Presidential Villa.
It was, however, learnt that strategies would be crafted to counter moves by the PDP.
APC senators, especially those seeking reelection, would be mandated to attend plenary tomorrow.
Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and other top government functionaries are expected to be in attendance, where Buhari is expected to preside.
Spokesman of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached for an official comment as at press time yesterday.
Meanwhile the National Judicial Council (NJC), would meet tomorrow in Abuja.
A member of NJC told TheCable yesterday that neither Onnoghen, whose suspension has become a subject of controversy, nor Muhammad, the acting CJN, would be allowed to preside over the meeting.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), also scheduled an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting for today in Abuja to deliberate on a common position over the suspension of Onnoghen.
NBA Assistant Publicity Secretary, Akorede Lawal, said it would hold by 12 noon at its National Secretariat, Abuja.
The NBA had in an earlier statement condemned and rejected Onnoghen’s suspension, saying it amounted to an attempted coup against the nation’s judiciary.
In the same vein, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), summoned an emergency meeting of its Central Working Committee (CWC) for Wednesday, to solely deliberate on the current happening in the Judiciary.
Its national president, Marwan Mustapha Adamu, in a statement yesterday said the union would take a stand after the meeting.
He said the situation in the judiciary, an arm of government as at now was unfortunate, insisting that the independence of judiciary as enshrined in the constitution remained non negotiable.
However, there was tension in Calabar, Cross River State, yesterday, as some groups threatened to shut down Calabar by organising a one-million-man match protest against the suspension of Onnoghen.
Secretary of Friends of Atiku, Mr. Austine Ibok, who disclosed this in an interactive session said: “We totally reject the illegal suspension of CJN Walter Onnoghen by President Buhari on the spurious advice of the CCT which is working in tandem with APC-led government to enthrone dictatorship in the country.
“The action of Federal Government is a coup against the judiciary. We, therefore demand for his immediate re-instatement of the CNJ.”
Speaking on behalf of Cross River for Good Governance (CRFGG) and Arise for Onnoghen, Cletus Idangu, said: “We have observed that the corruption war is lopsided and applied indiscriminately depending on where you come from. The CJN suspension is the climax of injustice against the South South and South East zones just because they didn’t vote for Buhari. We shall continue to fight until Onnoghen is restored.”
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 400 Civil Society Organizations (CSO), also said the onslaught by the Presidency against the judiciary was ill advised and poorly timed.
Its chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said in a statement in Abuja, yesterday: “The recent happenings have obviously placed serious credibility question on the tribunals, who would be faced with the task of proving that their adjudication of election cases would not be tilted to favour the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
Similarly, senatorial candidate of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, said“The suspension of CJN is unconstitutional. It is an open disregard to the rule of law. People in position of authority cannot claim to be democrats and destroy the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that brought them to power.
“If Jonathan had removed a CJN who is from the North and replace him with someone from the South, many of us, including me would have rejected such.”
Catholic Action Nigeria equally expressed “shock at the dramatic suspension of by Buhari.”
A statement by its Governor, Board of Trustees, Peter Agbontaen and first Vice Chairman, Council of Patrons, Joseph Adom Kyaagba, said it “will never condone any breach of the law by any person or institution including the CJN. “The National Assembly should take immediate drastic actions to remedy the situation.”
“We urge all Nigerians to rise up in one accord to condemn this executive lawlessness and constitutional breach.”
However, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Kwara State, Issa Aremu, yesterday asked Onnoghen to resign from office over asset declaration charges preferred against him.
In a press conference in Ilorin, noted that the suspended CJN, who should know better claimed that it was due to “forgetfulness and mistake, the admittance was suffice for the embattled jurist to honourably take leave of office and preserve the image of the judiciary.”
Onnoghen: Atiku thanks US, UK, others for identifying with Nigeria
From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Former Vice President and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has expressed appreciation to the United States (US), United Kingdom(UK) and the European Union (EU), for identifying with Nigerians in the aftermath of the removal of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said in a statement, yesterday: “I am not fighting for Justice Onnoghen. I am fighting for the constitution. Once we open the Pandora’s Box of unconstitutionality, we cannot tell where it will end.
“This scenario appears to me like déjà vu. Under a particularly brutal military dictatorship, Nigerians witnessed the illegal and arbitrary removal of many innocent people from their positions of authority and many said nothing because they were not from the ethnic group of those affected.
“I remember speaking up then that what we know is when the rain begins, but we do not know when it will end. My warnings were ignored by some until they woke up one day and that a dictator removed no less a personality than the Sultan of Sokoto.
“It is worth pointing out that Muhammadu Buhari was by his side when he did that. He obviously learned very well from his teacher.
“If they come for the heads of the legislature and we keep quiet because we are not legislators, if they came for the heads of the media and we keep quiet because we are not journalists, if they came for the head of the judiciary and we keep quiet because he/she is not from our area, there may be no one left to speak up when they come for us.
“At this point, let me commend all the Lord Justices of the Supreme Court who have heeded my call and the call of other patriots to remain united. The fact that they did not participate in the swearing-in of election petition tribunals is not lost on true democrats all over the world.
“My thanks especially go to the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Nigerian people. This is most appreciated and on behalf of the voiceless, I say thank you.
“And to those who accuse these government of interfering, I remind them that they made no such accusations when they celebrated a statement from the US/UK/EU calling for free and fair elections in 2015, just after the postponement of the 2015 elections to make room for a final assault against Boko Haram. What has changed between then and now, except that they are now in power.”
Meanwhile, his wife, Jennifer, at the weekend in Asaba, Delta State, called on women to be courageous in the face of the tension generated by the suspension of Onnoghen by Buhari.
She gave the admonition when she led women across the 25 local government areas of the state to pray for the unity of Nigeria and sustenance of democratic governance.
Wife of the vice presidential candidate, Mrs. Margaret Obi, wife of Delta State governor, Mrs. Edith Okowa and wife of PDP national chairman, Mrs. Ene Secondus, were present at the religious gathering.
She said: “They will try to derail us, they will try to make us afraid, they will try to confuse us. We should not be afraid. God is our guiding light, He will show us the way.”
“Mrs. Obi tasked women not to lose hope as victory is certain, while Mrs. Okowa insisted that women of Delta State would not be deterred by the alleged antics and highhandedness of the ruling APC.
Mrs. Secondus called on women not to loose faith, adding that they have thrown their weight in support of the men and are against the suspension of Onoghen.
Onnoghnen: You’re not properly informed – Presidency replies US. UK, EU
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidency has described as not properly informed, criticisms by the United States America (US), United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), on concerns raised with regards to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, last Friday, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu in a statement yesterday night, described the US, UK and EU’s condemnation of Onnoghen’s suspension as condescending to Africa’s democracy.
He reiterated that despite the errors and omissions by Onnoghen, he was only suspended and not removed from office, added that those report that the CJN has been removed from office permanently, were mischievous.
Said Shehu: “The presidency notes with interest the coordinated statements of the US, UK and EU linking the suspension of CJN Onnoghen to the conduct of the upcoming elections. We appreciate the concerns voiced by the three statements and accept that the authors of the statements believe they were acting in friendship toward Nigeria with regard to making the statements.
“However, we also note that friends, when not properly informed or acting in haste, can indeed make serious mistakes even with the best of intentions. Such is the case here.
“The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and, to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy. This is unfortunate. But, this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation.
“The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives.”
He insisted Onnoghen is responsible for the situation he found himself.
According to Shehu, the “CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing. The CJN was brought before the CCT because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration. This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.
“All credible evidence indicates the CJN owned and operated several secret bank accounts. Unexplained large sums of money, exceeding several million dollars have passed through these accounts. Several thousand dollars are currently parked in the accounts. Multiple deposits of equal sums of money were deposited in some of those accounts during the same day. Such rapid and equal deposits are indicative of a person attempting to evade banking reporting laws and regulations.
“Thus far, CJN Onnoghen has given no plausible explanation for the funds or for failing to report the subject accounts in his assets declaration despite having ample time and opportunity to explain the omission. Given the amount of money involved and the CJN’s inability to explain the source of the funds, the most plausible explanation at this point is also the most unfortunate explanation. No one did this to CJN Onnoghen. He, and he, alone, is to blame for this turn of events.
“Over the years and with great frequency, the authors of the three statements have advised and even chided Nigeria about official corruption. Now, we are presented with the sad and unwanted situation where the CJN is discovered to have vast, unexplained amount of money in his pocket.
“Because of this, he has been thoroughly discredited. It is untenable that a person in such compromised circumstances would be allowed to preside over the entire judicial system of a great nation. That would travesty the nation and what it stands for…”
Meanwhile, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and rights activist, Femi Falana, yesterday, said the Court of Appeal does not have the power to restrain the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) from performing its exclusive functions.
The Court of Appeal had ordered the CCT from continuing the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen pending its determination.
But the CCT ordered the Federal Government to suspend Onnoghen who had failed to appear before it on allegations of false asset declaration.
Speaking on a Lagos-based programme, yesterday, Falana said “the Court of Appeal cannot make an order restraining the CCT from performing what belongs to it exclusively.”
Falana also flayed the Federal Government in the way they handled the issue of the CJN, saying that “a government can never be in a hurry or allowed to engage in jungle justice for self-help.”