Nigeria's Buhari under pressure over judge suspension

Arturo Kim
January 28, 2019

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has summoned an emergency meeting to brainstorm on the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen, as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria's president suspended the country's most senior judge on Friday, weeks ahead of an election in which the judiciary could play an important role and prompting the main opposition candidate to describe it as an act of dictatorship.

"And for such further order (s) as this Honourable Tribunal may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case".

The U.S. said Buhari acted "without the support of the legislative branch" and noted widespread criticism in Nigeria that the move was unconstitutional.

"It's a situation the Nigerian Bar Association can not accept because there's no constitutional basis for it".

Abubakar questioned why due process was not allowed to run its course and called for the global community to threaten "strong consequences" for anyone involved.

Buhari seized power in December 1983 by overthrowing civilian president Shehu Shagari, ruling with an iron fist until he was ousted by general Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985.

The Nigerian Bar Association condemned an "attempted coup" against the judiciary and suspension of the constitution by the president.

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"Our country is falling apart under the leadership of President Buhari and it is time to stand up for democracy", Abubakar said in a statement.

Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 after decades of military government.

He said he was acting on the directive of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

According to her, it was worrisome that the interference by the President in another arm of government portends dangers for the nation's democracy, and specifically, the 2019 electoral process.

Any return of lawmakers would likely set up another confrontation between the legislature and executive, as Senate leader Bukola Saraki is a prominent Buhari opponent.

On Thursday, an appeal court had issued an interim order to halt charges being brought against the chief justice.

Abubakar, a former vice-president, said the suspension of Onnoghen was "symptomatic of the increasing desperation" of his rival to cling on to power. The president said the CCT ordered him to suspend him until the trial is over.

Buhari has been accused of surrounding himself with people from his home region.

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