Lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has knocked President Muhammadu Buhari and embattled Justice Walter Onnoghen over the latter’s suspension over false assets declaration.
Buhari suspended Onnoghen as chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) on Friday, citing a recommendation by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and immediately swore in Tanko Mohammed in an acting capacity.
Speaking as a guest on a Channels Television programme on Sunday, Falana described steps taken by both parties as illegal.
He called on the president to immediately lift the suspension on the beleaguered judge, who should in turn resign for admitting not to have properly declared his assets as required by law.
“The government should as a matter of urgency, lift the suspension on the Chief Justice since the Chief Justice as so much to on his own admitted that he did not declare his assets, he should do the needful by calling it quits,” Falana said.
The 60-year-old further argued that the executive and the judiciary arms of government have failed Nigerians in their handling of the matter.
He said it was wrong for Buhari to have suspended Onnoghen based on an ex parte order of the CCT.
“The power to suspend a sitting Judge in Nigeria, including the Chief Justice,” Falana pointed out “has to be on the recommendation of the NJC (National Judicial Council).”
He said the government should not be in a hurry or allowed to engage in jungle justice for self-help.
Falana noted that Buhari did not follow due process, stressing that the government must learn to obey the rule of law.
“You can’t fight corruption without following due process,” Falana said.
He also condemned Onnoghen’s lawyers for going to courts to shop for injunctions against his arraignment before the CCT.
“The Court of Appeal cannot make an order restraining the CCT from performing what belongs to it exclusively,” the former chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP) said.