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NJC Exclude Onnoghen, Ibrahim Muhammad from Emergency Meeting

NJC Exclude Onnoghen, Ibrahim Muhammad from Emergency Meeting – The uproar occasioned by the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the appointment of Justice Ibrahim Muhammad as acting chief justice by President Muhammadu Buhari, is about to simmer as some members of the National Judicial Council have summoned a Meeting of the body for this morning in Abuja.

The meeting would exclude Onnoghen and Muhammad, is one of a couple of others by concerned groups looking for a way out of the looming constitutional crisis.

Ahead of tomorrow’s reconvening of Senate plenary, the caucuses of both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the upper chamber of the National Assembly are billed to meet in Abuja today.

Also meeting today is the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), whose National Executive Committee (NEC) members have been asked to gather in Abuja.

A member of NJC told The Cable yesterday that neither Onnoghen, whose suspension has become a subject of controversy, nor Muhammad, the acting CJN, would be allowed to preside over the meeting.

According to the rules guiding the conduct of NJC meetings, five or more members can summon a meeting subject to a request made to the chairman.

It was not clear last night if this requirement was met.

According to 1999 Constitution, members of the council are the CJN, who shall be the chairman; the next most senior justice of the Supreme Court, who shall be the deputy chairman; the President of the Court of Appeal; five retired justices selected by the CJN from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal.

Other members of the council include, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; five chief judges of states to be appointed by the CJN from among the chief judges of the states and of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja; one Grand Khadi to be appointed by the CJN from among Grand Khadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years; one president of the Customary Court of Appeal to be appointed by the CJN from among the Presidents of the Customary Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years; five members of the NBA, who have been qualified to practise for a period of not less than 15 years, at least one of whom shall be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), appointed by the CJN on the recommendation of the National Executive Committee of the NBA to serve for two years and subject to re-appointment, provided that the five members shall sit in the council only for the purposes of considering the names of persons for appointment to the superior courts of record; and two persons not being legal practitioners, who in the opinion of the CJN, are of unquestionable integrity.

Buhari had last Friday suspended Onnoghen, citing an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

But many lawyers and civil rights activists had kicked against the president’s action, saying the NJC ought to have investigated the allegations levelled against Onnoghen.

Senate Caucuses, Meet Today Ahead of Special Sitting

The senators’ meetings are at the instance of the leadership of the two caucuses, which would take definite positions on last Friday’s suspension of Onnoghen.

The meetings would hold a day after the leadership of the Senate met at the Maitama, Abuja private residence of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to chart a course for the reconvening of the Senate plenary by tomorrow rather than the earlier adjourned date of Tuesday, February 19.

An APC senator and Chairman of Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance, Babajide Omoworare,  confirmed to THISDAY yesterday that the APC Senate caucus led by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, would meet in Abuja later today to take a position on the suspension of the CJN before going for plenary tomorrow.

Omoworare (Osun East) added that two other meetings of senators of like minds would also hold later today in different locations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to discuss the main reason for reconvening the Senate plenary.

On his part, Chairman of Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions and a PDP senator, Rafiu Ibrahim, also confirmed to THISDAY that the PDP Senate caucus led by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, will meet today to take a stand on the suspension of the head of the nation’s judicial arm of government by the executive arm.

Ibrahim (Kwara South) stated that the caucus meeting would come up with a strategy on how to address the issue, which he said, has become a “national embarrassment.’’

According to him, “The suspension of the CJN is unconstitutional and cannot hold water, which has also become the position of the entire world.’’

He said by the time Senate resumes plenary tomorrow “it will speak on this unconstitutional act by the president and I know the Senate is made up of people who will speak as concerned Nigerians and not along party lines.’’

However, tomorrow’s debate by the Senate might be along party lines as APC senators appear not to see anything wrong with the suspension while their PDP counterparts vowed to do everything possible for the Senate to condemn the act and ask the president to reverse it.

Those who spoke with THISDAY on condition of anonymity claimed there is no way the PDP senators will have their way against the APC lawmakers who are in the majority.

In a statement issued yesterday by the National President of JUSUN, Mr. Marwan Adamu, the union said it would deliberate on the current happenings in the judiciary and take a stand after the meeting.

Adamu described the situation in the judiciary, an arm of government, as unfortunate, insisting that the independence of the judiciary as enshrined in the constitution is not negotiable.

The union had last week put its members on red alert, following the moves to arraign Justice Onnoghen over allegations of corruption.

NBA to Hold Emergency NEC Meeting

Meanwhile, still miffed by the suspension of Onnoghen by President Buhari, the NBA has called for an emergency meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) members today.

The General Secretary of the NBA, Jonathan Gunu Taidi, said in a notice of meeting that the meeting has Onnoghen’s suspension as the only agenda and it would be attended only by statutory NEC members.

THISDAY gathered that at the meeting issues surrounding the boycott of courts as a form of protest would be discussed.

The NBA had last Friday rejected the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, describing the action as a coup against the judiciary.

It demanded the reversal of the suspension, and called on the National Assembly to assert its constitutional authority and powers and prevent this slide into chaos and erosion of the rule of law.

In terse statement by its President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), the lawyers’ body condemned the suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the federal government.

The NBA noted  that the action of the executive arm of government portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the rule of law and due process.

It added that suspension of the CJN by President Buhari amounted to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC).

Judicial Workers Summon Emergency Meetings

Also, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the umbrella body of junior staff members of the judiciary, has fixed an emergency meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the union for Wednesday to discuss the issues leading to the suspension of Justice Onnoghen.

This is coming as the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the umbrella body of junior staff members of the judiciary, has fixed an emergency meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the union for Wednesday to discuss the issues leading to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Again, key political actors and allies of Third Force movement under the umbrella of Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) have commenced nationwide mobilisation towards the formation of a new political coalition.

The coalition is to rally fresh breed political leaders, civil society groups, labour activists, professionals, women and youths to halt what they described as a threat to the survival of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy occasioned by steady descent of Buhari’s government to civilian dictatorship.

Third Force Mobilises for Mass Action

Also gearing for action are key political actors and allies of Third Force Movement under the umbrella of Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), who have commenced nationwide mobilisation towards the formation of a new political coalition.

The coalition is to rally fresh breed political leaders, civil society groups, labour activists, professionals, women and youths to halt what they described as a threat to the survival of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy occasioned by steady descent of Buhari’s government to civilian dictatorship.

The leader of NIM, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), a foremost human rights advocate and former president of NBA in consultation with key political leaders of the Third Force Movement at the weekend took the decision to halt the growing attempt of the Buhari government to emasculate and compromise key state institutions ahead of the general election holding in the country next month.

A mobilisation committee of the movement led by Prof. Anthony Kila has been mandated to shortlist and mobilise allied political parties, candidates, former aspirants and select leaders of conscience in the country for a major national planning parley slated to hold this week in Lagos and Abuja against the backdrop of the ultimatum earlier given to Buhari to reverse his purported removal of Justice Onnoghen as CJN or face mass resistance.

Some of the political actors and presidential hopefuls already invited to the Thursday parley in Lagos are Agbakoba, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Tafawa Balewa, Donald Duke, Col. Abubarkar Umar Dangiwa (rtd), Olawepo Hashim, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu, Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye, Shina Fagbenro, Obadiah Melafiya, Tope Fasua, Alistar Soyode, Elishama Ideh, Thomas Ikubese, Mathias Tsado, Ahmed Buhari, among other ‘Third Force’ freshbreed presidential hopefuls expected to align in the new coalition to save democracy  and the 2019 elections.

We Will Not Be Surprised If CCT Rejects Appeal Court’s Order to Stay Proceedings, Says Defence Counsel

Meanwhile, as the trial of Justice Onnoghen resumes today at the CCT, a member of the defence team, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), yesterday said they would not be surprised if the tribunal fails to regard the order of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, which had ordered it to stay proceedings in the trial of Onnoghen.

Erokoro in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said they expect the CCT to abide by the order of the Court of Appeal, adding, “But we would not be surprised if he doesn’t and we are ready for any surprise that may come up tomorrow (today).”

The federal government had slammed a six -charge of alleged false asset declaration against the CJN. He was accused of failing to declare some funds in his domiciliary accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank, Wuse 2 branch, Abuja.

The CCT had in a split decision of two to one held that it was not bound to recognise the orders of the Federal High Court and other courts of equal jurisdiction, which had ordered a stay of the trial of Onnoghen at the CCT the hearing of motions pending at the various courts.

In their majority judgment, tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar and Juli Anabor, also disagreed with the request to adjournment of the trial indefinitely, on the grounds of a pending appeal at the Court of Appeal, adding that section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, did not make provisions for stay of proceedings in a criminal matter and that in the instant case, it shall not be entertained.

He subsequently adjourned to January 28 for hearing on the defendant’s motion challenging jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the matter.

Before the adjournment, the tribunal refused to entertain the application of the plaintiff seeking an order asking the defendant to step aside pending the determination of the charge against him.

Umar had held that the motion moved by plaintiff counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN) cannot be heard without first resolving the issue of jurisdiction raised by the defendant.

However, the Court of Appeal two days later, on January 24, ordered the CCT to stay proceedings in Onnoghen’s trial till Wednesday, January 30 when it (Court of Appeal) would deliver its ruling on the application of the defendant on jurisdiction.

However, in less than 24 hours the appellate court order was made, the president announced the suspension of Onnoghen as CJN.

Buhari also immediately swore in the next most senior justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad as acting CJN and head of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The president based his action on a purported ex-parte order by the CCT obtained on January 23.

The CCT in its ruling of January 23 had ordered Buhari to suspend Onnoghen pending the determination of the charge of non-declaration of assets pending at the CCT.

However, speaking on the matter, Erokoro said going by recent developments, nobody knows what the CCT would do when it sits today.

He said, “The purported ex-parte order on which the president acted on carried a date preceding the sitting at the Court of Appeal and they never disclosed that they have already obtained an order for the suspension of the defendant, so anything can happen tomorrow (today).

The Court of Appeal in Abuja last Thursday had ordered the CCT to stay further proceedings in the trial of Onnoghen.

The three-member panel of the appellate court gave the order after taking submissions from counsel in the application filed by the CJN seeking a stay of proceedings of the trial at the CCT. Onnoghen had in the application filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), asked the appeal court to restrain the CCT from going ahead with the trial slated for January 22.

He also asked the court to stop the suit requesting him to step down as the CJN.

In a short ruling the presiding justice, Justice Abdul Aboki, ordered that, “this ruling is adjourned till January 30, the tribunal is ordered to stay all proceedings.”

The post NJC Exclude Onnoghen, Ibrahim Muhammad from Emergency Meeting appeared first on Financial Watch.



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