Timing of Onnoghen’s suspension gives cause for concern – UK

Justice Walter Onnoghen

The United Kingdom has expressed concern over the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, saying the timing – three weeks before the presidential election – gives cause for concern.

President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday, citing an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and immediately swore in Justice Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN.

The chief justice would play a key role in any legal challenge to the election in which Buhari seeks a second term.

In a statement on Saturday Britain said “we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections.”

While saying it respects Nigeria’s sovereignty, the UK added: “We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely.

“We encourage all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised by this development through due process, demonstrating their commitment to respecting the constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law. We further urge them to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process.”

The US had said in an earlier statement that Buhari acted “without the support of the legislative branch” and noted widespread criticism in Nigeria that the move was unconstitutional.