A constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Sebastian Hon, has described the six-count criminal charge the Federal Government entered against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as a deliberate attempt to gag the judiciary.
Hon, in a statement on Saturday, urged the CJN not to heed to what he termed as an “unholy call” for him to step aside.
He said: “While I know that the Chief Justice of Nigeria does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, I see this move by the Federal Government as dangerously political and tendentious.
“Suddenly, we woke to see a petition leaked to the informal or social media, allegedly received by the Code of Conduct on 9th January, 2019.
“Suddenly, we are told charges have been filed against the CJN. Suddenly the Presidency is reportedly asking him to step aside! Was he interrogated or interviewed and his own reactions obtained?
“Why this supersonic rush?
These steps are more political than honest. There is an attempt to destroy the Judiciary or gag it; and in the latter situation, to hector it into submission. I personally say no to this!
“All Nigerians of good will must say no to this unprovoked assault on the Judiciary.
After unsuccessful attempts to reign in the National Assembly, the same unholy attention is beamed on the Judiciary.
“If this arm of government is destroyed, due process, constitutionalism and the rule of law will pave way to whimsical, narrow and brute force, at the instance of one man or a select few! I personally say no to this.
“Nothing stops the Federal Government from deferring, in the interest of national peace and cohesion, the filing of those charges till an opportune time – since there is no limitation of time in criminal proceedings. Why now?
“The Federal prosecutors are also aware of extant decisions of the Court of Appeal, to the effect that unless and until the NJC pronounces a Judicial Officer guilty, he cannot be arraigned in court.
“Those authorities know full well that these decisions of the Court of Appeal have not been overruled; but they have decided to humiliate the CJN, by rushing some charges to the Tribunal and leaking same to the press over the weekend.
“I strongly counsel the CJN not to heed the obviously unholy call that he should step aside. There is light, I am strongly persuaded, at the end of the tunnel!”, he stated.