The federal government has reportedly filed a motion at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) seeking the removal of Walter Onnoghen as the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN). Punch reports that the the motion was filed by Musa Ibrahim and Fatima Danjuma Ali on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation on Thursday, January 17. Openreporters gathered that 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.”
The fresh move against Onnoghen came after the National Industrial Court, Abuja, had on Monday, January 14, 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, Peter Abang.
The opposition political parties had on Friday, January 18, claimed they had uncovered a plan by the federal government to arrest Onnoghen on Tuesday, January 22. The first national spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), 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 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, Danladi Umar, to disregard the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja which had directed the tribunal to maintain status quo”, he said.
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