US ‘Deeply Concerned’ by CJN’s Suspension

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Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen
  • Asks president to obey rule of law

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja

The United States has said it is deeply concerned by the impact of Nigerian executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch, Justice Walter Onnoghen, without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday suspended CJN Onnoghen, citing on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The US, in a statement posted on U.S. Mission Nigeria website on Saturday afternoon, urged Buhari to resolve swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the constitution of Nigeria, the the issues raised by the decision.

‘’Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process”, the US warned.

The US also noted the widespread criticisms that the decision was unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch.

‘’That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.

‘’We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process,” the statement stated.

This is the second time the US has issued statements in the last one week over issues bordering on the unfolding happenings in the country.

Recently, US also said that the conduct of the upcoming elections in Nigeria was important not only for Nigeria, but for the African continent.

Although the United States government said that it was not supporting any specific candidate or party in Nigeria’s upcoming elections, it however said it supports the Nigerian democratic process itself.

‘’We support a genuinely free, fair, transparent, and peaceful electoral process. We, and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections’’, it stated recently.

The US said it would not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process in Nigeria.

‘’Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations may also lead to restrictions on family members. We welcome the signing of peace pledges by Nigerian candidates and their commitment to a peaceful electoral process’’, it had warned.