Why Onnoghen was removed as disclosed by an ex governor is an adding to the raging debate about the removal of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria
OpenLife Nigeria reports that there are reactions to the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (retd.), who on Friday, March 19, said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), removed him as CJN before the 2019 general elections because the President was informed that he had a meeting with former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Justice Walter Onnoghen was tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT in 2019 over allegations of not declaring full assets as required by the law.
The then CJN, in one of his defence said he forgot.
The tribunal banned Onnoghen from holding public office for 10 years and ordered any assets he could not account for to be forfeited to the state.
Reacting, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a live media chat that when he saw the overwhelming evidences of corruption perpertrated by Onnoghen as Chief Justic of Nigeria, he permitted security agents to go after him.
At a later date, President Buhari said under Onnoghen, criminals were set free after financially inducing judges, a development that runs contrary to his anti corruption objectives.
“Criminals were set free in all manner of technicalities,” which in the estimation of the President, are products of corruption,” Buhari said on why Onnoghen was removed.
Speaking in Abuja during the public presentation of a book titled ‘Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents,’ written by Chief Ogwu James Onoja (SAN), Onnoghen said:
“Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one-on-one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I ceased to be a High Court judge as far back as 1978.
“In the Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. We sit in a panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen but for all Nigerians who had sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To say the least, the period of my ordeal was the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary.
“As I have said repeatedly, judicial officers must be courageous. And I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me at the hands of the executive arm of the government.
“Emerging Nigerian judges should not go the direction of injustice because without courageous judges and justice, Nigeria is doomed. Here, let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicised, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law. We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour. Truth stands; crush it, it will stand because it is truth.”
Cooments on why Onnoghen was removed, following his poutpour have been divergent.
A former governor from South West who spoke to OpenLife Nigeria Saturday morning dismissed Onnoghen’s submission saying the former Chief Justice should “Go and bury his head in shame for dragging the temple of justice in the mud.”
The former governor added that “Onnoghen was properly tried. He was corrupt. The evidences were there. He was accused of not declaring full assets and he admitted he forgot. He was no longer qualified to be Nigeria’s CJN because of his mental instability of forgetting things as little as declaring full asserts. President Buhari did the right thing be removing him,” the ex governor said.