Most Reverend John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, has described the controversies caused by the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria(CJN), as unnecessary distraction to the the nation.
Onaiyekan, speaking to the media on the sidelines of his 75th birthday celebration, said this is a distraction, the nation cannot afford, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
He noted that the political atmosphere in the country had been unduly charged, owing to the judicial impasse caused by the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Justice Onnoghen and replace him with Justice Tanko Mohammaed as Acting CJN.
“I am surprised at the amount of controversy that has been generated on a matter that ought to be straight forward. No matter the position one takes on the matter, one thing is certain: the action of the President has created a lot of bad blood and dust in the political atmosphere. Something has happened that should not happen. Let nobody tell you that the rules for removing the CJN are not clear.
“No matter how you look at the suspension of the CJN, the fact remains that it is a major distraction that we cannot afford going into the 2019 elections,”he said.
He, however, cautioned the executive arm of government against seeking to intimidate and subjugate the judiciary and the legislature, saying “since the executive has the ‘ownership of military power,’ it has an edge over the other two arms of government but the whole system cannot stand unless the three are standing tall like a tripod.”
Onaiyekan said the decision of Senate to seek adjudication on the matter at the Supreme Court is a welcome decision and insisted that civil activities such as street protests were needless except when all legal options had been exhausted without any success. “If the constitution and the Supreme Court says Mr. President is wrong, he is not infallible, he should be able to say ‘Okay, I was mis-advised’. If the Supreme Court says he is right, we should all accept it and move on so that we can do our election peacefully, justly, and fairly,” he stated. ff