A group, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), on Sunday condemned, in the strongest terms, the move by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to force the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, out of office without recourse to due process of law.
PANDEF National Secretary, Dr Alfred Mulade, said this in a signed statement, pointing out that the group considered the planned, hasty arraignment of Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, as a very dangerous precedent in the country’s democratic experience.
“PANDEF considers the planned hasty arraignment of Justice Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, as a very dangerous precedence in our democratic experience,” he said, adding: “This development coming barely one month to the general elections, clearly gives the impression that it is politically motivated, and is aimed at undermining and emasculating the nation’s judiciary for political advantage.”
PANDEF, Mulade said further considered the move as part of the unfair treatment, unnecessary persecution and discrimination being meted against persons from the South-South geopolitical zone and the Niger Delta region by the President Buhari led federal government, since its inception in 2015.
“We wish to recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had overtly demonstrated reluctance in appointing Justice Walter Onneghen as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria by delaying the forwarding of his name to the Senate for confirmation, following his recommendation for the position by the National Judiciary Commission (NJC), being the most senior member of the apex bench at the time.
“It was only after an avalanche of condemnation of the delay by leaders of the South-South/Niger Delta region, and other patriotic Nigerians, including some federal lawmakers that Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, then Acting President, transmitted his name to the Senate for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria,” Mulade recalled.
“Also recall that Mr Matthew Seiyefa was appointed in acting capacity as Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), being the most senior officer in the Service, following the sack of Lawal Daura, the former DG-DSS by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who was Acting President at the time, over the disgraceful siege at the National Assembly in July last year.
“Unsurprisingly, President Muhammadu Buhari refused to confirm Matthew Seiyefa, an indigene of Bayelsa State, as substantive DG. But instead, Mr President replaced him with a retired officer from Kano State, less than a month of his return from vacation,” he further recalled.
It is critical to note, and quite saddening that the Buhari administration and agencies of the government have continued to show great aversion to the people of the South-South and the Niger Delta region,” Mulade affirmed.