Assault, intimidation, desecration of judiciary must stop ― NBA

Onslaught on judiciary, Nigerians must rise up to defend democracy ― Ozekhome

THE Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), condemned what it described as assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by the federal government and demands that it be stopped immediately.

The Federal Government, which, at the weekend, asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen to resign his position as the CJN said it will arraign him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) tomorrow for failing to declare his assets and maintaining a domiciliary my foreign accounts.

But the President of Paul Usoro (SAN), in a statement said in the case of Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal held in a judgment that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (NJC) pursuant to the provisions of our laws.

ALSO READ: Of February 2019, social media and general elections

“Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer, can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him”, the NBA stated and added that the appellate court pointed out the need to preserve, promote and protect the independence of the judiciary.

“Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government”, the NBA boss stated.

The NBA wondered why the federal government will embark on an anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against the CJN to the NJC for its deliberation and determination.

Similarly, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has said that the charges preferred against Justice Onnoghen by the federal government are highly political, and designed to intimidate the Judiciary ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

The human rights lawyer said in a statement that the action of federal government is designed to force out Onnoghen, who, as the CJN, will constitute the Presidential Election Tribunal that will entertain disputes arising from the presidential election.

Ozekhome said: “If the judiciary is terrorised, intimidated harassed and humiliated using strong hand and brute force, democracy will be bidded farewell in the country.

He said, “A strong judiciary is one of the irreducible fundamental platforms for any meaningful constitutional democracy.

“The president Buhari government has been very intolerant of any credible dissenting voice in the country. From the crude break – in and invasion of judges’ houses in October 2018, by masked DSS operatives, to the horrific siege laid on the NASS and the residences of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Dr Ike Ekweremadu.

“It is clear that this government, which protects its own members, however corrupt and despicable, has blown into full maximum dictatorship, totalitarianism and absolutism. Nigerians must say no to fascism”.

According to Ozekhome, the CCT has no jurisdiction to try a suspect until a fundamental condition precedent is first met and the condition precedent is provided for in the proviso to Section (3) (d) of the CCBT Act.

He said the position of the law is that a suspect must first be confronted with the allegations by the CCB and be given an opportunity to reply them.

“Facts available in the public domain are that an NGO petitioned against the CJN on 7th January 2019, and same was received by the CCB two days later, on 9th January 2019. By 11th January 2019, charges had been filed and arraignment is to be made on the 14th January 2019.

“Everything thus took place in one week. When did prosecutorial agencies in Nigeria become so efficient as to accomplish this 8th wonder of the world within such a short time”, the senior lawyer asked.