February 6, 2023

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Onnoghen : You ‘ve shot yourself in the leg, rights activist tells NJC

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Onnoghen : You ‘ve shot yourself in the leg, rights activist tells NJC

Chinedu Metuh

 

A human Rights Activist and Author, Comrade Paul Ikechukwu Njoku, has lamented that the National Judicial Commission (NJC) has has shot itself in the leg by recommending for the compulsory retirement of the former and embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen, even as the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) had not concluded its adjudication on the matter.

Comrade Paul, queried the decision of NJC to exonerate the Acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad who made himself available to replace Onnoghen without due process .

Comrade Paul Njoku

Recall that Justice Walter Onnoghen, was charged before Justice Dalandi Umar-led Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) few months ago over alleged false asset declaration which led to his immediate suspension from the office by President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed and swore-in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

After deliberating on the petition filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), members of the NJC unanimously agreed that Justice Walter Onnoghen has lost the moral authority to continue as the CJN with the litany of allegations bordering on misconduct. The NJC which handles the disciplinary issues in the judiciary sat under the interim leadership of Umaru Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal, who officiated at the meeting as Onnoghen was already under suspension.

The council also concluded that that Tanko Mohammad did not commit any offence by making himself available to be sworn-in as acting CJN without the recommendation of the CJN and these recommendations have been passed to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval.

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Comrade Njoku, says that “the whole process is disheartening, illogical and unfortunate”.

“Was the allegations proved? Suppose Onnoghen wins at the Code of Conduct Tribunal what would the NJC do? As far as am concerned, NJC has laid the precedence that would catch up with them soon. Nigeria is in trouble indeed. If the Economic and Financial Crime Commission has incontrovertible evidences against Onnoghen as being reported, why should the NJC recommend for his retirement with full benefits instead of retirement with full prosecution?

“The lopsidedness and crass injustice in this country is beyond description. Why did the NJC not also retire Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad who was not recommended by the NJC but made himself available to the executive to be sworn-in as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and replaced Onnoghen?

“In March 2018, NJC recommended for the compulsory retirement of the then Abia State Chief Judge, Theresa Uzokwe, over a petition written against her by Umeh Kalu, SAN, Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice of Abia State Government over an illegal constitution and working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, and confirmed by the Abia State House of Assembly. She was also found guilty to have misconducted herself in suit No.HU/131/2005, wherein she delivered judgement in the sum of N825, 000 in favour of a litigant but subsequently signed a garnishee order of N109, 612, 500.

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“The same NJC also recommended for the compulsory retirement of Hon.Mr. Justice Obisike Orji of Abia State judiciary, for allowing himself to be sworn-in as the acting Chief Judge of Abia State without a recommendation from the NJC thereby colluding in and aiding an unconstitutional process.

“Therefore, in my logical deduction and cognitive reasoning available in the constitution, if the NJC could compulsorily retire Justice Obisike Orji of Abia State judiciary for allowing himself to be sworn-in as the acting Chief Judge of Abia State by the executive governor of Abia State and accused him of colluding and aiding in an unconstitutional process, why did they not apply the same disciplinary measure in the case of Mr.Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad who also submitted himself to the executive by colluding and aiding in an unconstitutional process and was singlehandedly sworn-in by Mr.President devoid of the NJC recommendation? By this development, Justice Obisike Orji, should be reinstated.

” In my view, NJC is unfair in this process with all due respect and I urge Onnoghen to appeal this travesty of justice meted out against him.

“They recommended for a compulsory retirement of Onnoghen on moral ground and that he had become too controversial for the office. Do they just want to give him up to the sharks or what?

“Is NJC not aware that someone somewhere can one day level frivolous accusations against the next CJN or any of the Supreme Court Judges? Will CJN ask those judges to retire simply because they are carrying moral burdens? I had thought that justice can only come after trial has been concluded and judgement given by the last competent court of jurisdiction.

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” I am very much aware that it will be hard for this government to allow Onnoghen return to office because of own cases pending in various tribunals and courts and of course due to fear of the unknown.

“It is very sad that the NJC has given President Muhammadu Buhari what he wants. Meanwhile, the saddest thing about Onnoghen’s issue is that the entire South has failed. A Southerner wrote the petition against Onnoghen, a Southerner is heading the NBA! There are more Southern Judges in Nigeria! There are more top flight Southerners in the legal profession, but unfortunately, they were not able to stand up for their own. No Northerner would agree to be used to intimidate or cause one of her own to go through what Onnoghen has gone through”.

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