The South South Governors’ Forum has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to condemn the ongoing “assault” on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in the Supreme Court.
The governors in a communiqué issued Sunday, made the call at the end of an emergency meeting held in Abuja.
The communiqué which was signed by governors of Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Delta states, Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, Barr. Nyesom Wike, Prof. Ben Ayade, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, described the development as a blow on the nation’s democracy.
Recall that Justice Onnoghen was recently slammed with allegations of misconduct, currently being heard at the Supreme Court and have been asked to resign in some quarters.
However, the governors’ said the happenings, especially the attempt to drag the CJN to the Criminal Court Tribunal (CCT), is a “humiliation” of Nigeria’s highest judicial officer, as well as “reflective of the South South story of endless marginalization and intimidation,” what with Onnoghen being from the Niger Delta.
Citing past incidents, the communiqué stated that there are clear procedures as provided by Nigeria’s constitution for the National Judicial Council (NJC), to tackle such matters.
Emphasizing the fact that the Buhari-led government have have often shown disregard for offices and court orders, the communiqué noted that with the general elections around the corner, the CJN matter may cause unwanted tension.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state, including the National Assembly and the Judiciary
“We believe that the President, Muhammadu Buhari has a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend our democracy.
“We note that the unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law.
“It is a fact that this administration has a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders.
“We expect President Buhari to know that democracy cannot survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution.
“We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about INEC and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
“We note further that the action undermines confidence not only in the judiciary but also the electoral process that has already commenced, in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication.
“We affirm President Buhari should know that the continuous assault on critical institutions of state is a defining feature of a dictatorship, and that the President is obliged to live up to his word that he is a born-again democrat, as he assured Nigerians in 2015.
The communiqué further charged the president to “condemn without any equivocation, this assault on the CJN and the judiciary especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, to save the country from this embarrassment and global contempt.
“We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called Court summon from the CCB and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters.
“While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law.
“We also decry the massive buildup of arms by APC leaders and members across the Niger Delta with the intent to cause mayhem and a general breakdown of law and order during the elections.”