LAWYERS could not meet yesterday over suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen’s fate – no thanks to protests that rocked the venue in Abuja.
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) fixed the meeting to take a position on the suspension of the CJN by President Muhammadu on Friday.
The pro and anti-Onnoghen protests were infiltrated by miscreants who stormed the meeting venue within the Central Business District (CBD).
The protesters made it impossible for those against the suspension to air their view as they repeatedly chanted “Ba naso, Ba naso”, “Onnoghen must go”.
For about three hours, vehicles could not pass as the protesters took over the road leading to the NBA secretariat venue of the meeting.
Lawyers, who were billed to attend the meeting, could not make it to the venue.
Security operatives had a hectic time controlling street urchins.
Reporters were accused by the miscreants of taking side with the lawyers and not reporting their activities.
The National Coordinator of the Advocacy for Civil Service and Justice, one of the groups protesting at the NBA secretariat, Giwa Victor, said they were not against the prosecution of Justice Onnoghen, but insisting that due process must be followed.
He said: “We are not saying that Justice Onnoghen is not corrupt, we are not saying that he should not be removed or prosecuted. What we are saying is that due process should be followed and the petition against him should be sent to the NJC for action. There is no law in the land that vests the President with the power to suspend the CJN. Due process has to be followed.”
Co-Conveners of the National Interest Defenders, Ikenga Imo Ugochiyere, who condemned CJN Onnoghen’s suspension by the President, said the protest marked the beginning of civil action by Nigerians to reclaim their country from the grip of those who have treated “the constitution with disdain, our principles of constitutional governance with scorn and our democratic ethos with contempt and derision”.
He said: “It is shameful that President Muhammadu Buhari relied on and used a forged and fictitious tribunal order to purport to suspend the CJN and appoint a factional Chief Justice while knowing that the order was forged and fictitious.
“Nigerians will recall that the petition served on the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) against the Chief Justice of Nigeria was received by the Bureau on the 9th January, 2019.
“The purported tribunal order on which the President claimed he relied upon is also dated the same 9th January, 2019. The motion on notice seeking the same prayers as the purported Ex parte motion is dated 10th January, 2019, the charge filed was dated 10th January, 2019, while the statement of the CJN in answer to the petition was on the 11th of January, 2011.”
He accused the President of violating the constitution, an action he said amounts to gross misconduct.
Ugochiyere called on the NBA and the National Judicial Council (NJC) not to stand against what he described as impunity.
According to him, the swearing in of Justice Tanko Mohammed as an acting CJN was an aberration.
He said: “The NJC and NBA must order the shutdown of the courts until the illegal suspension of the CJN is lifted and Justice Tanko Mohammed made to vacate the office.
“The NJC must expel Justice Tanko Mohammed from the bench for accepting an illegal appointment in violation of the constitution and the NJC rules of engagement.
“The NBA must direct lawyers to boycott the Code of Conduct Tribunal presided over by Danladi Umar until disciplinary action is served on Umar for issuing a fake order that paved the way for impunity.
“No provision in Sections 157 and 292 of the 1999 Constitution as amended supports the President in purporting to suspend the CJN or swearing in an acting CJN.
‘The whole idea of a limited government is that the President’s powers is limited by law and it is ultra vires his powers to act in the absence of explicit legislative authorisation. That is representative democracy at its best which our 1999 Constitution as amended guarantees.”