The Atiku-Agbaje Media Engagement Network (AAMEN) has described the alleged sacking of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari as an act of impunity and a coup d’etat against the Judiciary that was capable of derailing the nation’s peace and democracy.
“This is an evil day in Nigeria. What has happened clearly is a coup and an unveiled scheme to emasculate the Judiciary and replace upright men by pawns and yes-men who would do the bidding of the ruling party in the coming elections and afterwards,” AAMEN said. “This plot should be robustly resisted by people of goodwill.”
In a press statement Friday by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Felix Oboagwina, AAMEN called on lawyers and judges to protect the Judiciary by immediately commencing a boycott of the courts.
In addition, the group called for a stern pronouncement by the National Assembly against what it described as a dangerous descent into tyranny.
AAMEN declared: “With the Fifth Citizen, Justice Walter Onnoghen, so summarily dismissed, Nigeria has begun a dangerous slide into tyranny. If the Archbishop of the Temple of Justice can be so easily and so flimsily shredded, then where lies the hope of the common man?”
Oboagwina described the move by the President as a hasty recourse to self-help because the allegation of false declaration of assets levelled against Onnoghen was originally instituted by a former Media Aide to Buhari between 2009 and 2011 and the Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, Dennis Aghanya.
AAMEN said the connection between Aghanya and Buhari showed an indication that the government had given the Chief Justice a bad name just to hang and kick him aside.
According to AAMEN, the ruling party and the President had shown they were acting a script to ensure that the election and cases therefrom were slanted to unduly favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its hollow agenda of self-perpetuation
Describing the replacement of Onnoghen by Justice Tanko Mohammed as blatantly faulty and unconstitutional, AAMEN said it contradicted the spirit and letter of the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as enunciated in the 1999 Constitution.
AAMEN pointed out that Section 231(1) and (3) stipulated that: “The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate…. If the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to perform those functions.
“Clearly, the office is neither vacant nor Justice Onnoghen incapable of running the office,” AAMEN submitted, adding, “A vehicle supposed to run on three wheels is now running on just one wheel. It is bound to collapse.”
According to the AAMEN Executive Secretary, the insult heaped on the Judiciary by the latest move was a throwback to Buhari’s 1983 coup where he benched the courts and hoisted politicians before hastily constituted tribunals that handed down draconian sentences through hastily concocted decrees.