Paul Usoro, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has criticised President Muhammadu’s decision to suspend Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
In a statement released on Friday, Usoro described it as an “attempted coup against the Nigerian Judiciary”.
He also called on Buhari to reverse Onnoghen’s suspension and demanded “the National Assembly to assert its constitutional authority and powers and prevent this slide into chaos and erosion of the Rule of Law”.
“The new media has been awash this evening with the news of the purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S C Onnoghen, GCON by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the swearing in of Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria. We are told that this was pursuant to an Ex-Parte Order that was issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.
“The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally rejects and condemns this attempted coup against the Nigerian Judiciary and evident suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the Executive arm of the Federal Government. The action of the Executive 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.
“We call on the Federal Government to avert the looming constitutional crisis precipitated by its ill-advised action. In particular, the Nigerian Bar Association demands the reversal of the purported suspension of Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S C Onnoghen, GCON.
“We also call on the National Assembly to assert its constitutional authority and powers and prevent this slide into chaos and erosion of the Rule of Law,” Usoro said.
Explaining his reason, the President said he suspended Onnoghen, following an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, asking him to wield the big stick.