Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Following his refusal to heed calls for the reversal of the alleged unconstitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, a socio-cultural group, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign his position as president.
The group, in conjunction with other groups notably Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had last weekend called on President Buhari to reverse the “unconstitutional and illegal removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), His Lordship,
Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onoghen, and called for the immediate reversal of the suspension”.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the MBF, which represents 14 states of the Middle Belt region of the country, had, following the president’s constitutional breach, demanded his immediate resignation.
“We the peoples of the Middle Belt region, as true Nigerians, believe in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, therefore, any person or group of persons who breach the Constitution or act in such a manner that will jeopardise the corporate existence of Nigeria and precipitate a humanitarian crisis of international dimension is an enemy of the Middle Belt and indeed of the Nigeria people.
“That we cannot trust the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to be fair and just in arrying out his functions as the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. His conduct is capable of setting this country on the path of anarchy and avoidable civil war.
“We call on the president, having blatantly breached the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he swore to uphold and his oath of office to immediately resign. In the event of his refusal to do so, we call on all the peoples of the Middle Belt and all our allies to reject him at the polls”, it said.
MBF also called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to immediately remove Justice Tanko Mohammed, who was sworn in by the President after the President after Onnognen’s suspension.
“We call on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to immediately remove Justice Tanko Mohammed from office for presenting himself to be sworn-in unconstitutionally as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria when he was never recommended by the NJC.
“We call on the international community to be proactive and prevent a descent into international humanitarian crises that may be occasioned by the disdain and contempt of the president for constitutionalism and the rule of law”, the statement said.
MBF predicated its position on the fact that the motion ex-parte upon which the purported suspension was predicated was filed on January 10, 2019.
“When the matter came up on January 22, 2019 for the arraignment of the CJN, the CJN through his lawyers challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal while the prosecution sought to move the motion to direct the CJN to step aside and after the stepping aside, direct the President to swear in the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to fill the vacuum.
“The tribunal after listening to both sides ruled that it would take the objection to its jurisdiction first and thereafter, take the motion of the prosecution, if necessary. The tribunal then adjourned to January 28, 2019 for the hearing of the two motions.
According to MBF “on Friday, January 25, 2019, the President claimed that he had been served with an ex-parte order directing him to suspend the CJN and swear- in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The president rather than allowing the due process of the law, chose to overthrow the Constitution and the law by unilaterally suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onoghen, from Cross River State and the only Southerner in the last 32 years to head that arm of government of the Federation; and immediately swore-in Justice Tanko Mohammed, from Bauchi State in the north thereby ensuring that the three arms of government are headed by Northerners.
“The order above clearly did not empower the president to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria nor could the order have done so as that power lies squarely in the purview of the National Judicial Council.
The position of the law today is as pronounced by the Court of Appeal in the Nganjiwa case.
“The action of the Executive Arm in using the Code of Conduct Tribunal to harass, intimidate and embarrass the Chief Justice of Nigeria is insensitive, deceitful and calculated to deepen the division in Nigeria along religious and regional lines and stands condemned by the peoples of the Middle Belt and all people of good conscience across Nigeria”.
The group further noted that the “action was in crass violation of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act which prohibits reference to the Code of Conduct Tribunal persons who have admitted in writing any
omission(s) in their Asset Declaration”.