The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the coalition of opposition parties have condemned the suspension of the CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NBA, in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), said it portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the Rule of Law and due process.
“It amounts to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council.
“It is unfortunate that the executive branch of government purports to suspend the CJN on the basis of an alleged ex-parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the same Tribunal that, to the knowledge of the executive, had, only the previous day, Tuesday, 22 January 2019 adjourned its proceedings to Monday, 28 January 2019 and has before it a motion on notice that is yet to be argued, seeking the same reliefs as were contained in the purported ex-parte application, to wit, the suspension of the CJN, amongst others,” NBA pointed out.
Likewise, the Coalition of Opposition Political Parties (CUPP) described the removal of the CJN as a judicial coup that must be resisted by all lovers of democracy.
Imo Ugochinyere, the Spokesperson of the group, said that by the development, President Buhari has finally overthrown constitutional governance. While maintaining that Onnoghen remains the CJN, opposition coalition describing the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammed, as a usurper of the exalted position.
CUPP called on members of the Legal profession from the Bar to the Bench and the Legislature to take collective actions to reverse the situation.
“The NBA should immediately call out all lawyers. All courts must be shut now while nationwide protest against this impunity should also commence.
“The NJC must sack him. Lawyers must ignore him as long as he remains on that seat. The CJN can be removed from office either if he has been convicted or if under section 291 and 292 of the constitution, the Senate affirms a request by the President to remove him by two-thirds majority vote. Buhari has dared Nigerians.
“Onnoghen’s illegal removal was aimed at stopping the swearing in of members of the general election petition tribunal.
“We have been vindicated on our earlier alarm that Buhari wants to appoint pro-APC CJN to help use the judiciary to affirm APC candidates in the 2019 pre and post election litigation.
“The CJN must remain in office and disregard this announcement as the President has no power to suspend him.
“The Senate should reconvene now and start impeachment process against the President for acting against the provision of the Constitution he swore to uphold.
“A man who rode to power on the basis of respect for the rule law and fundamental principles of democracy has chosen to play to the gallery of dictatorship to right elections. Let’s see how it goes.
“But we know that this is going to be the beginning of democracy in Nigeria. The democratic institutions will fight back. Trust me it is the beginning of democracy in Nigeria. Out of adversity comes strength.”
On his part, Dr. Abiodun Layonu (SAN), said the action has surely instigated a constitutional crisis.
“Sadly, we are in a constitutional crisis,” he said.
Afam Osigwe, a former general secretary of NBA, said there is no constitutional provision that allows the CCT to make such an order and no evidence that the tribunal sat to make such order.
“As at Tuesday when the matter came before the CCT, we heard the motion on notice and the court adjourned on record before every person to continue next week.
“So at what point did they hear this matter and the parties in the same matter was before the court of appeal yesterday when the court made an order following the normal proceedings?
“If this order was made on Wednesday, is it not alright that the order made by the court of appeal has cut off every other thing by stopping them from taking this action?”
He explained that such action raises the suspicion that the order is procured to achieve exactly this objective. There is no doubt, he said about the fact that they want to remove the CJN and rubbish the judiciary because they don’t want him to appoint justices over election matters.