Onnoghen : US- based law group writes NJC
* Demands immediate action
By Steve Oko
A United States -based law group has petitioned the Nigerian Judicial Council, NJC, seeking the immediate reversal of the unilateral suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Waltar Onnoghen.
The group known as Nigeria Law Group said the President’s action amounted to a brazen rape of the judiciary which can not be allowed to stand.
The petition signed by the group’s leader, Emmanuel Ogebe, urged the NJC to save Nigeria’s democracy by reversing the suspension which it said is politically motivated.
A copy of the petition made available to Wawa News Global read in full :
“Petition to the NJC on Sustained & Systematic Efforts to Destroy the Judiciary & Rule of Law in Nigeria by the Gen. Buhari Administration
My Lords, esteemed learned colleagues and members of the NJC,
I write to draw you attention to certain aspects of the unfolding travesty, sustained assault on the judiciary and hostile takeover and attempted acquisition of the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The facts are clearly in the public domain and I will reduce my observations to two issues:
A. SYSTEMATIC AND SUSTAINED DESTRUCTION OF THE RULE OF LAW BY ABUSE OF JUDGES
The President Buhari administration has assaulted the judiciary and destroyed the rule of law on a multiplicity of levels too numerous to elaborate.
I will mention only the latest affront as time eludes one to catalogue the serial and flagrant disregard for court orders or the unprecedented and wholesale molestation of judges since 2016.
On Friday January 25th, Gen. Buhari removed a constitutionally appointed head of a co-equal arm of government unconstitutionally and then appointed a new head of the judiciary unconstitutionally usurping both the statutory and constitutional functions of your goodselves and the Senate.
Below are the details of the self-incriminating, self-serving and deeply indicting recent statements by the president himself admitting to his crass manipulation of the judiciary.
“It is no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, (emphasis mine) often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted by the trial and appellate courts. Since there is nothing the Executive Arm can do after the apex court of the land has spoken on any matter, several of these individuals walk free among us today, enjoying what are clearly the proceeds of the corruption which for so
long has defeated the efforts of this nation to develop and prosper.” – Buhari January 2019 (on punishing the CJN for not ruling the way he wants.)
Permit me another exhibit:
“Don’t talk even of the US Ambassador (Justice Nsofor.) That one he wrote a minority judgement on my behalf so I paid him back (laughs)”. – Buhari (on rewarding a judge for ruling the way he wants.)
The sum total of these two confessions made last month are that President Buhari is a vindictive, authoritarian autocrat who punishes judges who do not do his bidding and rewards those who do. His hatred for Chief Justice Onnoghen is predicated on this fact which is “no secret” and not really about asset declaration. Since he is “dissatisfied” and “thereʼs nothing the executive arm can do” (collective) he has done the worst which is to get rid of the “problem” Justice. Gen Buhari himself has established his clear personal animus against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen on the basis of his professional duties as a judge. This fact is overwhelming proven.
You will no doubt agree that it is highly unlikely that a corruption prosecution started by this administration would have reached the Supreme Court within 3 years. Justice Onnoghen has only been Chief Justice for less than 2 years.
A review of that time frame shows that the only notable such case would be his administrationʼs attempted trial, incidentally by the same CCT, of the senate president on asset breaches.
On appeal, Justice Onnoghen upheld the governmentʼs position that the tribunal was duly constituted and remanded the senate president down for trial. President Buhari clearly was not upset at this ruling which favored him against his political opponent.
However when the matter came back on appeal subsequently, the Supreme Court ultimately resolved issues in favor of the senate president. This obviously drew the ire of President Buhari for which now Justice Onnoghen is paying the price by his own admission.
The question then arises:
will the NJC join in punishing Chief Justice Onnoghen for ruling unfavorably
to Gen Buhari?
Should the NJC overlook a clear expectation from Gen Buhari that the CJN was to influence the court to rule in Buhariʼs favor?
Is the punishment and rewards of judges system based on their rulings as espoused by Gen Buhari not itself the very essence of corruption?
Do these actions not only amount to manipulation and interference with the
judiciary but as a dire warning to intimidate judges to vote pro regime?
The swearing in of a judge singularly handpicked by Gen Buhari not the NJC and his swearing in of 250 election tribunal judges is troubling in this regard as it sends a message to their Lordships that those who rule for Buhari will be favored and those who donʼt will be persecuted.
In the profession we have what is called “forum shopping” or “jury shopping.” This administration has introduced “Jurist shopping and dropping.”
President Buhariʼs implicating remarks are very clear and explain why a cantankerous 84 year old retired judge rejected by the senate and before that the Supreme Court was foisted on the top diplomatic station in the world and more so why another CJN has been procured by the APC Government.
It should be noted that this is a continuing and sustained pattern of abuse by Gen Buhari who 35 years ago appointed military offers to try civilians in tribunals leading to a boycott by the NBA. Gen Buhari subsequently rewarded the judges that agreed to sit on his draconian tribunals with premature elevation.
Today Gen Buhari continues this trend making him the worst ruler of Nigeria in relation to the judiciary. The time to stop this is now.
May it be noted further that even at the height of his excesses as a military dictator, Gen. Buhari still subjected himself to the Advisory Judicial Counsel (AJC) and the Supreme Military Council (SMC) prior to making judicial appointments. How can he under a constitutional democracy get away with a usurpation of the exclusive functions of the NJC and the Senate in this day and age?
2. BRAZEN FORGERY & ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS BY EXECUTION OF FAKE JUDGMENT
The Buhari administration perpetrated a hoax on the nation and our democracy and profession by executing a fake judgment to wit:
– The president executed the judgment of a court that did not sit; – enforcing a prayer on a motion never moved;
– implementing a relief of suspension that was never ordered
– on a party who was never served said order.
For avoidance of doubt, the court orders that truncated the June 12, 1993 elections and precipitated national crisis were actually obtained in court sittings even if “candlelight” sessions at ungodly hours. There is no doubt Justices Gumi and Ikpeme sat in open court to deliver their rulings.
General Buhariʼs Tribunal order is even worse as there was no known sitting but mere fabrication by a “ghost court” session which is alien to our jurisprudence and jurisdiction.
Nothing can be based on such an obvious fraud and everyone involved by commission or omission, complicity or complacency, aiding and abetting, before and after the fact must be held to account.
It is respectfully submitted that:
1. the court order is nothing of such but a fraud from a farce. It does not even qualify to deserve repudiation. True an order of a court is valid until overturned but this was not a valid order of a court as no court sat for this purpose.
2.The court was rendered functus officio upon its adjournment. Anything done thereafter is extra-judicial witchcraft and we are not bound by same. Indeed it is contended that nothing in fact transpired after that but illegality.
To give such an apparent forgery any credence will be to render the rule of law vulnerable to outlandish fabrications of all sorts that could destroy the polity. We must not allow “fake judgments” in an era of “fake news.”
3. Further to that, that the ruling of a superior court stopped any further action pursuant to the trial at the CCT.
3. That the senate has not sat or voted on this issue nor has the NJC per the constitution
4. In view of the foregoing exercise in brazen criminality and fraud, I wish to ask
that you refer the lawyers in this administration and the members of the Tribunal including the perpetrators of the faux court order for investigation and disciplinary action once established.
5. In view of prior reports from justices that they were approached by a serving minister and principal campaign promoter of Gen Buhari that he had sent him to ask the Supreme Court to rule in favor of APC in several Gubernatorial matters whereupon the justices where then arrested in 2016, I urge that an Independent Counsel be appointed to investigate these serious allegations against the presidency
6. You resolve a situation where we have an NJC appointed CJN and an APC appointed one. As it is, today we now have a Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and a Chief Justice of Buhari (CJB.)
For clarity, the three primary infractions of the president at issue are:
A. Unlawful and Unconstitutional attempted removal of the CJN
B. Unlawful and Unconstitutional attempted appointment of a CJN
C. Unlawful and Unconstitutional usurpation of the functions of the NJC and Senate pursuant to A and B above
I am concerned that the NJC has not addressed the infraction that directly infringes its jurisdiction namely C the unlawful usurpation of its statutory function. NJC must exercise and reclaim its jurisdiction.
Similarly the NJC must clarify who the bona fide, legitimate and constitutionally appointed CJN currently is. The president has no power to remove the president of the NBA or the president of the senate. The CJN has more protections than either of them in our constitution and accordingly cannot be removed a fortiori.
To leave unresolved the question of who is the rightful CJN is to sanction an illegality by acquiescence. The NBA has stated the rightful position of the law as should the NJC.
The NJC cannot afford to allow a serial, irredeemable, recidivist anti-democrat not only to wreak havoc on our democracy but on timeless institutions of justice.
My Lords, esteemed seniors, learned colleagues and members, from my
vantage point in Washington, I note how our nation has become an object derision due to the abominable summary removal of the Chief Justice. The very foundation of the rule of law and our global standing in the comity of nations is at stake. I am attaching just a few of the news headlines from across the globe of this matter. The world watches.
The issue before us all today is the simple jurisprudential question – is lex rex or is rex lex? Is the king the law or is the law the king? In our situation it translates thus: is the president the law or is the law president?
Permit me to share from our American experience. US President Bill Clinton was interrogated by an Independent Counsel over an affair with an intern. Ultimately although his impeachment did not go through, he was found criminally liable for having lied under oath to the counsel. For save himself from being jailed for lying on oath upon leaving office, President Clinton agreed to a plea deal where his law license was suspended. This is a land where lex (law) is Rex (king.)
More recently you will recall the protracted and globally televised senate confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee by the US president while noting that even judicial appoints in the US are less regulated than the Nigerian process. They have only senate confirmation and no NJC process yet it took President Trump a lot of effort to secure the confirmation of his nominee. Nigeriaʼs constitution is modeled on that of the US and we can thus draw parallels.
Finally may I highlight one procedural issue. The Buhari regime has filed a petition to the NJC AFTER it had already charged the CJN to court. This is either an afterthought based on professional incompetence or it was a shrewdly premeditated move to replace the CJN before bringing the petition.
It is submitted that you donʼt hang a dog and then give it a bad name ex post facto. Ideally the FGN should withdraw its action at the CCT and allow the petition to be addressed first. Failing that the NJC should not allow it self to be used as a tool for the lynching of a judge by unscrupulous individuals who have no respect for due process, for the rule of law, for democracy, the constitution or the NJC itself.
In conclusion for so long as there is no 2/3 address from the senate and no recommendations by the NJC before you, this illegality must not stand.
- I thank you for your kind attention in the redemption of our nation.
Emmanuel Ogebe, ESQ US NIGERIA LAW GROUP 1025 Connecticut Ave #1000
Washington DC 20036 USA
Feb 8 2019″