Agbakoba Submits Petition against Acting CJN to NJC

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Dr. Olisa Agbakoba

•AGF sends allegations against Onnoghen to judicial body

•25 lawyers want court to quash CJN’s suspension

Segun James

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), asking it to determine the propriety of Justice Tanko Muhammad accepting to be the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Also, ahead of the emergency meeting of the NJC today, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has sent a list of criminal allegations against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)Justice Water Onnoghen to the judicial body, TheCable reported.

This is coming as 25 constitutional lawyers yesterday dragged President Muhammadu Buhari before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge what they termed as illegal suspension of Onnoghen.

In a statement from his chambers yesterday, Agbakoba said he submitted his petition to the NJC, asking it to determine the propriety of Justice Muhammad accepting to be sworn-in by the president in place of Onnoghen.

According to Agbakoba, by submitting himself to the president to be sworn-in as acting CJN, Justice Muhammad lent himself to constitutional infraction by the executive arm of government.

Agbakoba recalled that Justice Muhammad was part of an NJC panel that sanctioned Justice Obisike Orji of Abia State for allowing himself to be sworn-in as Abia State Chief Judge by the state governor without the recommendation of the NJC.

Agbakoba said, “It is a matter of regret that Justice Muhammad, who participated in this process, will lend himself to this constitutional infraction.”

Insisting that the president violated the law in suspending Justice Onnoghen, Agbakoba cited Section 153 of the constitution, saying the law was clear on how a CJN could be removed.

He said, “The Constitution is clear about the procedure for suspending or removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed on the recommendation of the NJC. See Section 153 (1), Paragraph 21 (a) of the 3rd Schedule and Section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Supreme Court decision in Elelu-Habeeb v AGF (2012) 40 WRN 1.

“Justice Muhammad is fully aware of the state of law, yet presented himself to be sworn in by the president.”

Meanwhile, ahead of the emergency meeting of NJC today, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has sent a list of criminal allegations against Onnoghen to the body, TheCable reported.

Insiders at the Federal Ministry of Justice said the petition contains a number of damaging allegations against the CJN, including bank statements and title deeds of properties said to have been traced to him.

The figures involved are said to be in billions of naira and several millions of dollars — as well as dozens of houses.

In a related development, 25 constitutional lawyers yesterday dragged President Buhari before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge what they termed as illegal suspension of Onnoghen.

The plaintiffs, led by human rights activist, Mr. Johnmary Jideobi, posed two legal issues for the determination of the court.

They prayed the high court to determine, “Whether by the combined interpretation of Section 153(1) (i) paragraph 21(a) of the 3rd Schedule and Sections 271, 291, 292 and 231 of the amended 1999 Constitution (and especially in view of the Supreme Court decision in Elelu-Habeeb vs. AGF (2012) 13 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 1318);), there exists any authority in the 1st defendant (Buhari) to suspend the 4th defendant (Onnoghen) as the CJN?

They also asked, “Whether by the combined interpretation of Section 153(1) (i) paragraph 21(a) of the 3rd Schedule and Sections 271, 291, 292 and 231 of the amended 1999 Constitution (and especially in view of the Supreme Court decision in Elelu-Habeeb vs. AGF (2012) 13 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 1318);) the purported suspension of the 4th defendant as the CJN by the 1st defendant on the January 25, 2019 is not unconstitutional?”