A Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ekiti State, Sen. Ayo Arise, has expressed reservations on the stand of the Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC) on the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria,CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Arise, who spoke in Ado-Ekiti after the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that the system of government that is being operated in Nigeria only recognizes the supreme court as the final arbiter in any case.
The ex-lawmaker, who represented Ekiti North Senatorial District between 2007 -2011 also described the suspended CJN’s saga as an embarrassment not only to the judiciary but to the country as a whole. Arise, pointed out that as bad as the situation appears, that Nigeria could take advantage of the controversy and make correction on some weaknesses in the Constitution.
He said that the suspended CJN could have saved himself and the nation from the mess ,if he had taken what he termed ‘path of honour’ and resigned from his former position, stressing that no individual could be larger than the judiciary.
“Well, it is an unfortunate scenario that we found ourselves .Ordinarily Onnoghen should have saved the judiciary, saved this country and also saved his name by simply resigned from office” “Whether it is allegation, confirmation or deliberate misrepresentation..Whatever the case may be, once Onnoghen has owned up and said he forgot to make the declaration of his assets ,he should have resigned and apologize to Nigerians that he ,as an individual ,represents an institution. And no individual should be larger than the judiciary. It is not worth what it has been subjected to ”
Arise, however faulted the NJC’s perceived attempt to assume the powers of the court on the matter.
“There is no room for apportioning blame at this time.The President acted based on advice from the Attorney General of the Federation ,who is the number Law Enforcement Officer of the country.
“When you look at the whole scenario, it appears that it challenges the essence of our constitution. How do you have somebody who has admitted to violating the law of the land to continue to lead that arm of government ?”
“Obviously, there is no basis for justification, either morally or legally .Looking at the reactions of several organizations. The NBA, South South Governors Forum and others.
“Yes, there is a little bit of controversy in the constitution. The constitution says when a judicial officer commits an offense, he or she should be refer to the Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC). for sanction .It is the same constitution that says when a public servant fails to declare his or her asset or made false declaration, such officer would be sent to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for prosecution and administration of justice. And a number of guidelines were stated there in.”
“The issue now is which one is superior ?Is it the court or the NJC? The system of government that I believe ,we are practicing, the NJC cannot be parallel court to CCT. When you say the supreme Court is the final arbiter in any case. That is the Supreme Court .So ,is the NJC now saying it is equivalent to supreme Court. So, invariably the answer to my mind is no, that means, something needs to be clarified on the roles of the NJC and the roles of the Courts, vis a vis when breach of the law is involved.
“As a nation, even though we are learning by the day, this democracy is not a perfect system of government. It is a system that allows for learning, making correction and improvement as we progress as a nation. It is even good that this scenario came up .And whatever the weaknesses are, in our constitution can be corrected as we move forward.”