A Lagos human rights lawyer and leading member of Gani Fawehinmi Organisation (GFO), Mr. Debo Adeleke, has counselled President Muhammadu Buhari to honourably withdraw the alleged charges of failure of assets declaration and possession of domiciliary foreign accounts levelled against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.Adeleke gave the advice in a statement made available to this medium on Sunday, saying if the trial is allowed to commence it would not only denigrate the Judiciary but also disintegrate the country whose unity, honour and glory the President swore to defend and uphold.
The statement reads in part: “there is no way the President can convince anybody that he meant well, at the eleventh hour to general elections, by filling these charges against Justice Onnoghen. It is highly suspicious, witch-hunting and embarrassing, calculated to send fears into the spines of other judges or would-be successor if Onnoghen is removed, not to fail in doing the government biddings.
“How can he be accused of operating domiciliary foreign accounts when even government officials, including the Vice-President openly declared their assets in such accounts. In my own little way, I operate domiciliary foreign account to make easy for me when I travel out of the country.
“This is not to say that the CJN cannot be investigated but to whisk him before the Code and Conduct Tribunal when necessary constitutional requirements have not been met is not only denigrating the judiciary but hauling a big insult on the constitution and paving way for the country disintegration”, he said.
Adeleke further stated that while no right thinking lawyer would condone any infraction by judicial officer, no matter his position, the Judiciary, the third Arm of government has its own internal mechanism to deal with such infraction.
“This present Buhari-led administration should be told that there is separation of powers among the three arms of government and no arm can over-rich itself to the disadvantage of the others.
“This was how the government embarrassed itself and the whole country in recent times when its agents went to judges’ residences at unholy hours, ransacking their rooms and parlours without search warrants, and accusing them of baseless charges. At the end of the day, the court freed them, reinstated some.
“Does it not sound very odd, and more like animal Kingdom, for the CJN, number One in the country Judiciary to be docked before the Danladi Abdullah led-Code of Conduct Tribunal. This is the Tribunal Chairman who was once accused of collecting bribe during the trial of Senate President Bukonla Saraki. Does anybody hear anything about it again?
“This latest government proposed trial of the CJN echoes the distress call once made by the President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, that her husband is no longer in charge of the ruling in the country, that a powerful cabal surrounding him has hijacked the control from him.
“The question is how many APC governors or governors from other parties have declared their assets; how are we even sure what the president declared is genuine since it must be secret?
“The politicians, who are now asking that the CJN should vacate his seat know very well there is no way the CJN can go on trial of those allegations and still have moral standing to go back to hos seat.
“The military has failed us, the politicians are even worse, civilian government still wants to disgrace this country further by denigrating the Judiciary, the only stable arm of government whose members are free from the current defection wind rocking political class in the country.
“This is the same Justice Onnoghen who the Buhari government failed to appoint as substantive CJN until divine intervention made it possible for the Vice-President Osinbajo, in his wisdom, to endorse his appointment when Buhari was away. This was warmly applauded.
“How can you accuse a CJN and a few hours you prepare charges of misconduct and haul him before a tribunal which lacks power to try him, if you don’t have ulterior motives?
“I want to believe the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is not in support of this attempt to denigrate the Judiciary, his first constituency? The cabal must have muffled his voice. I will not be surprised if he opts out of this government soon. This is because if this is allowed to go on the Judiciary is finished.
“The President should not be misled into believing if he succeeds in removing Onnoghen, his successor would dance to government tune. The present caliber of judges remain cannot be bribed. They’ve gone through the “baptism of judicial fire” that places them above the board.
“Although they are not angels, I can vouch that no one among them would compromise their integrity and allow the judiciary to be dragged in the mud of politics. It would be an unpardonable sin for anybody to subject Justice Walter Onnoghen, a political scape goat for Buhari administration to stage its come back after the elections.
“Justice Onnoghen is a man of honour and integrity who, within the short space he mounted the CJN ladar, he turned the temple of justice into an enviable position. He has done more than his predecessors. This is reflected in the new look of the Supreme Court in Abuja”, Adeleke stated.