A prominent non-governmental organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of “attempting to foist a totalitarian regime through a subterfuge by the eleventh-hour plot to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over sundry allegations bordering on non-declaration of assets.”
“HURIWA is of the considered opinion that mischief and malice may have guided the decision of the Presidency to institute these charges before a tribunal teleguided by the executive arm of government going by the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Code of Conduct Bureau are controlled by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,” a statement issued on Saturday evening said.
HURIWA in the statement signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, wondered why the Executive Arm of Government did not approach the regular court system or the National Assembly “if these charges aren’t politically motivated blackmail to whittle down the influence of a Southern-born Chief Justice of Nigeria in the event that the presidential election becomes stalemated and may require adjudication before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
HURIWA recalled that the President hesitated in the appointing of Justice Onnoghen as CJN in a substantive way “but plotted to impose a Northern-born justice who was then second in line in terms of seniority to the current holder of the office of CJN.”
The rights group said there was no way Justice Onnoghen would get justice “from the handpicked Code of Conduct Tribunal appointed and reorganised structurally by the Presidency shortly after the Chairman of the Tribunal acquitted the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, of all charges of failure to declare his assets and the CJN headed the appellate panel that finally nailed the coffin of the Presidency’s plot to sustain a case against the main political rival of the current President in the person of the Senate President.”
“This politically-motivated war against the CJN is a payback for his principled stand to discharge and acquit Saraki of all charges as framed up by the Executive through the Federal Attorney General,” HURIWA said.
The group faulted the call by the Presidency on the CJN to quit “based on those charges that are still within the realm of suspicion and have not been so determined by the competent court of law.”
“Going by Section 36(5) Onnoghen is totally innocent in the eye of the law and can’t be removed from office based on mere allegations. Buhari must adhere to the principle of rule of law and restrain himself from imposing a fait accompli on the executive-controlled Conduct Tribunal,” the rights group stated.