The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) yesterday rejected the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari. It therefore asked for his immediate reinstatement.
The elders’ group noted that the action of the Federal Government was akin to suspending the constitution and enthroning dictatorship, anarchy and self-help.
In a statement by its national secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, PANDEF called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to boycott the courts pending the reversal of the alleged illegality.
It said: “Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad should be sanctioned by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for his willful participation in this ‘coup’ against the office of the CJN and the Nigerian constitution.
“The courts should not sit until Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad is barred from parading himself as the CJN and Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen promptly reinstated.”
The Niger Delta elder further charged the National Assembly to pass a resolution condemning the alleged violation of the constitution and ensure that normalcy was restored.
The statement reads in part: “It is important to recall that PANDEF had raised concern that the hasty arraignment of Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, coming barely one month to the general elections, was politically motivated, and was a ploy to force the CJN out of office without recourse to due process of law as well as to make way for enthronement of their own person, in this case, the Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to do their bidding.
“Clearly, the judicial arm, which is the pillar of integrity upon which our democracy rests, is under siege. Separation of powers and rule of law are threatened.
“Indeed the independence of the judiciary shall be subjugated and consumed if this brazen action is allowed to stand. The principles and tenets for rule of law and judiciary, being the hope of the common man, are being jeopardised.”
The body also appealed to patriotic Nigerians to rise against the ‘monumental absurdity of the century’.
It added: “Let all Nigerians of goodwill stand united on this matter and challenge this despotic action of the president, which remains illegal and unconstitutional, and therefore null and void.
“Let us restate that PANDEF, and indeed the people of the Niger Delta region and the South South, shall not tolerate the lawlessness and continued persecution of our people by this Buhari-led Federal Government.
“We shall employ all legitimate means to demonstrate our insistence and demand on the reversal of the illegal removal of CJN, Walter Onnoghen. This country belongs to all of us, and we are critical stakeholders in the Nigerian state.”
Also, the Coalition of Christian Groups For Good Governance “Nigeria and Diaspora” (COCGOG) condemned in strong terms what it described as the “deliberate provocation of a section of the country and grand design to eliminate the justice system in the country and conclude the Islamisation of Nigeria.”
It expressed shock over Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s aloofness from his learned colleagues in the NBA even after earlier stating that his boss knew nothing about Onnoghen’s predicament.
President of the group, Rev. Daniel Kadzai, in a communiqué after their national executive council (NEC) yesterday in Abuja, noted that Christians were being gagged.
According to him, the body language of the vice president and other faithful in the government suggests they are either under threat or under hypnotic powers in Aso Rock.
The body appealed to all Christians nationwide to pray for “spiritual deliverance of the vice president and others.”
However, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has cautioned the American and British governments over their remarks on Onnoghen’s removal from office.
In a statement, its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said: “America and Britain should not look at the suspension in isolation but consider the gravity of the offence committed by the CJN.”
He insisted that the decision was in line with global best practices for public office holders facing alleged graft charges.
The group called on the western countries not to interfere in the internal affairs of the country, as it expressed confidence in the present administration’s fight against corruption.
Also yesterday, the wife of the president, Hajia Aisha Buhari, denied condemning her spouse’s decision.
A statement by her Director of Information, Suleiman Haruna, in Abuja described the earlier reports credited to her as fake.
Those who equally condemned the clampdown yesterday were the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), wife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar, and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
In a petition by its senior legal adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, SERAP urged the NJC to immediately take over the probe.
Mrs. Abubakar, during a meeting with women in Asaba at the weekend, urged them to pray for peace and unity in the country.
In another statement by its chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, TMG said the action portends danger for the nation’s democracy, and specifically, the 2019 polls.