The Federal Government has filed a motion before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, asking for the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, be removed as the CJN and the chairman of the National Judicial Council.
According to documents obtained by Saturday Punch, the motion was filed by Musa Ibrahim and Fatima Danjuma Ali on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation on Thursday.
The move, according to the government, is aimed at ensuring that Onnoghen is not a judge in his case and that the next in line of seniority, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, becomes the acting CJN pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiff asked the court to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to name the next most senior judge as the acting CJN and chairman of the NJC.
The motion on notice was brought in pursuance of Section 6(6) Paragraph 11 (1) of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The Federal Government prayed the tribunal for an interlocutory order “directing the defendant/respondent to step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National Judicial Council over an allegation of contravening the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act CAP C15 Laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004 pending the determination of the case.
“An interlocutory order of the honourable tribunal directing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to take all necessary measures to swear in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as an acting Chief Justice and chairman of the National Judicial Council in order to prevent a vacuum in the judicial arm of government pending the determination of the case.”
Born on December 31, 1953 at Doguwa – Giade, a local government area in Bauchi State, Justice Muhammad attended Ahmadu Bello University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Law in 1980.
He later obtained a master’s degree and doctorate from the same university in 1984 and 1998 respectively.
The fresh move against Onnoghen came after the National Industrial Court, Abuja, had on Monday restrained the Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, the AGF, the Code of Conduct Bureau and the police from removing Onnoghen.
This was pursuant to a motion ex-parte filed by a lawyer, Mr Peter Abang.
Opposition alleges move to arrest Onnoghen on Tuesday
Meanwhile, the opposition political parties on Friday claimed they had uncovered a plan by the Federal Government to arrest Onnoghen on Tuesday.
The first national spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Imo Ugochinyere, made the claim at a press conference in Abuja on Friday.
Ugochinyere said the arrest would be carried out shortly after a bench warrant would have been issued by the CCT against Onnoghen.
He added that arrangements had been concluded to immediately name Justice Justice Ibrahim Muhammad as acting CJN.
He said Nigeria’s democracy was currently in danger.
“Members of the cabal in the Presidency have just concluded a meeting last night (Thursday) where they have now set the stage to burn down the institution of democracy and constitutional governance for the purpose of achieving a narrow aim of annexing the judiciary.
“Just a few hours after our release of the secret letter directing the freezing of the account of the CJN illegally without a court order, these men have at the end of their meeting last (Thursday) night directed the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr Danladi Umar, to disregard the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja which had directed the tribunal to maintain status quo.
“They have asked him to go ahead to issue a bench warrant on the next adjourned date being Tuesday, January 22 in the event the CJN does not appear in court. The meeting of the Presidency cabal also resolved and directed the new Acting Inspector-General of Police that the immediate arrest of the CJN on the same Tuesday as effort will be made to ensure he is served with the order same day, following the issuance of the arrest warrant would be his litmus test for his speedy confirmation as the substantive Inspector-General,” he said.
Ugochinyere alleged that the meeting also resolved that a fresh petition against Onnoghen would immediately be forwarded to the National Judicial Council.
He said the strategy was to force the CJN out of office and pave the way for Justice Ibrahim Muhammad who is the deputy chairman of the NJC to take over and do all their bidding.
“Let it be known that unless and until the CJN is found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, he will not resign!” he said.
He claimed that some other Justices of the Supreme Court were also being targeted for persecution.
“They further resolved that another petition would now be forwarded to the National Judicial Council and that petition had already been drafted in the chambers of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“This petition will precede the other frivolous and trumped-up allegations which will be submitted against Justice Mary Peter-Odili, Justice Cletus Nweze and Justice Rhodes Vivour just to scare them away and tarnish their good names,” Ugochinyere added.
He claimed that a minister, a state governor from the northern part of the country, another top government official and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, drafted the petition.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari was aware of the development because it was resolved at the meeting that the minister and the state governor should brief him.
“They want to force him out at all cost and put an acting CJN whose bidding will include setting up appeal panels to resolve the Rivers and Zamfara APC crisis in favour of the APC and the other states where they fear they will lose elections.
“The states include Akwa Ibom, Delta, Lagos, Benue, Imo, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Abia and Sokoto and also constitute a pro-Buhari post-presidential election tribunal. The CJN may not speak out because of the demands of his office, but we will not as the opposition, the bearers of the conscience and consciousness of the Nigerian people keep quiet and allow these felons to desecrate the Nigerian judiciary,” he said
He added, “The only way the CJN can leave office is by Section 292 of the Constitution or by a proper conviction and not by stepping aside from the NJC. We are shouting it from the rooftops; let them put the CJN in handcuffs, let Danladi Umar in dancing to the tune of his APC blackmailers and issue arrest warrant, let the IG dance to the tune of the litmus test of arresting the CJN, let the APC-funded petition be brought to the NJC, Justice Onnoghen will not be forced out of office.”
Ugochinyere also alleged that there was also pressure on the members of the NJC and moves to conscript them to force the CJN out of office.
“Nigerians must rise now before this final bridge of the semblance of constitutional governance falls,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has described the allegations that he was plotting to destroy the judiciary as false and spurious.
Amaechi, who spoke on Friday through a statement from his media office, challenged Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to name the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress he (Wike) claimed he (Amaechi) spoke with on the alleged plan to bring down the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Amaechi maintained that he was not a judicial officer and could not be part of whatever was happening in the nation’s judiciary.
“This is another blatant lie just to smear Amaechi and put him on collision course with the judiciary. Ordinarily, we would not have bothered to respond to a governor whose stock-in-trade is to concoct stories and lie about almost everything and anything. The former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, is not a judicial officer and is not part of whatever is happening in the judiciary. We challenge Nyesom Wike to mention the name of the APC chieftain, he falsely alleged, Amaechi discussed the ‘destruction of the CJN’ with.”
Wike had on Thursday alleged that Amaechi was behind the plot to destroy the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption and Research- Based Data Initiative, Dennis Aghanya, has raised the alarm over threats to his life following his petition against Onnoghen for failing to declare five bank accounts with about $3m.
The former media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that a number of people have asked him to disown the petition against the CJN for a huge amount of money.
He said those behind the threats were “the people who are telling Nigerians that the petition does not have merit.”
He declined to identify the people making the threats.
Aghanya said, “Since this petition came to light, they have been sending friends and families to me and at the same time issuing threats. They are giving me two options: If I don’t accept, I would go down six feet. If I mention the amount they are offering, it is something a hungry man would accept, something they cannot resist, big money, as much as a billion naira.”
According to the activist, those faulting his action should instead encourage the CJN to defend himself at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He stated that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, did the right thing by ensuring the prosecution of Onnoghen for concealing five domiciliary accounts in Standard Chartered Bank.
He dismissed arguments that the petition did not follow due process, noting that Nigerians should be concerned with the facts and evidences presented on the case “instead of leaving substance to chase shadow.”
Aghanya again denied that the petition against Onnoghen was politically-motivated, noting that many other investigations were also being carried out by ARDI against other government officials whom he declined to identify.
When asked if he feared for his life, Aghanya said, “I’m human, but then, it is God that gives life. Because I am a good Christian, I don’t feel bothered. If I were to be killed, do you know the kind of enemies I have had to contend with since I was born? The enemies would come, they would rise, do all sorts of things, but if God is with you, all those things would be in vain.”