The deliberate manipulation and misrepresentation by the Buhari and Vice President and Attorney Osinbajo SAN government, of the “order” by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, falls into the category of fraud and deception and is an insult not only to the legal institution but to morality and human conscience.
In his justification of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen’s sack, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed as quoted below in his written address, that he was ordered by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to suspend Nigeria’s Chief Justice. Please read Buhari’s words below:
“16. It is against this background that I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing me to suspend the Chief Justice pending final determination of the cases against him. It also explains why I am not only complying immediately, but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by these anomalies.”
This declaration stupefied the legally informed and aware. An adviser and policy expert immediately called and asked, “Is it possible that the Danladi Umar-headed Code of Conduct Tribunal ordered Nigeria’s president to suspend the head of the Judiciary?” Such an infraction would be very strange and would put the qualifications and future career of the head of Tribunal court in question. It is legally impossible for the Tribunal to have ordered Onnoghen’s suspension as Buhari alleged. A reading of the court’s judgement as obtained by PremiumTimes clearly proved that the Federal government of Nigeria blatantly lied. No such order was given to Buhari. No such order can be given by the Tribunal court.
The court proclaimed its controversial judgement to the person of Chief Justice Onnoghen, ordering him to step aside. The court DID NOT order president Muhammadu Buhari to suspend him. Please read the court’s order:
“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS
“1. That the Defendant/Respondent shall step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council over allegation of contravening the provisions of the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act Cap C15 Laws of the Federation 2004 pending the determination of the Motion on Notice dated 10th January 2019.
“2. That the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall take all necessary measures to swear-in the most senior Justice of Supreme Court of Nigeria as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council in order to prevent a vacuum in the Judicial Arm of Government pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.”
The intentional misread and misapplication of the court’s order by Buhari and Osinbajo who is a SAN lawyer, sets a most dangerous precedent and continues a trend of disregard and false application of court orders. It is worrisome to note how fast Buhari falsely abided by this particular court order, albeit in a distorted application, considering his administration’s history of disregard for court orders.
Additionally disturbing is the rather tyrannical, ambiguous selection of words by the CCT in the second paragraph of the order. “That the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall take all necessary measures to swear-in the most senior Justice…to prevent a vacuum.” What does the Tribunal mean by this and what was its intent. Was Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to be dragged to oath? It is easy to opine that the Tribunal was mischievously pushing the Buhari government to err and engage in tyrannical acts by ordering Buhari to use “any means necessary” to swear in Tanko after Onnoghen “steps aside.”
Nigeria’s constitution clearly delineates the only processes for “removing” (sacking/suspending) the Chief Justice of the Federation. The President and two-thirds of the Senate must approve. It must be mentioned that contrary to some false information in the media recently, the Chief Justice-headed National Judicial Council has absolutely no role sacking the Chief Justice or recommending his sack. Its recommendation roles apply to certain other judicial officers and not the Chief Justice. An informed read of part (b) of Section 292 of the Nigerian constitution clarifies this point.
You cannot break the law to keep the law. Nigeria’s judiciary is under siege. The third arm of government has lost its autonomy and relevance.
At this point, drastic measures are exigently needed to end the reign of anarchy and only the National Assembly can come to the rescue of Nigeria. Will it?
God save Nigeria.
Written by Dr. Issa Perry Brimah