The South-South Governors Forum has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to save the country from embarrassment by condemning move to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Bayelsa, Mr Seriake Dickson, made the call while reading the governors communique issued after the forum emergency meeting held at Bayelsa Governor’s lodge on Sunday in Abuja.
The CCT had Scheduled Monday, Jan. 14 for the arraignment of Onnoghen, on allegations of false and non-assets declarations.
Dickson said that the governors condemned the “assault on the CJN and the judiciary”, especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, saying the action against Onnoghen constituted a setback to the gains of the nation’s democratic experience.
He said that Buhari had a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend the country ‘s democracy.
Dickson said that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council (NJC), had ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of Judicial officers.
“Specifically, the NJC has the powers and clear procedures for investigating allegations, and recommending appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures against judicial officials as a matter of first instance before any further steps.
“The judicial pronouncements in the cases of FGN Vs Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court (January 9, 2018) and Justice Ngajinwa Vs FGN 2017 at the CCT have given validation to the express provisions of the constitution on this issue.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the judiciary.”
Dickson said that no democracy could survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution.
“We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about INEC and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
“We note further that the action undermines confidence not only in the judiciary but also the electoral process that has already commenced, in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication.
“Based on the foregoing, we hereby call on the President:
“To condemn without any equivocation, this assault on the CJN and the judiciary especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, to save the country from this embarrassment and global contempt.
“We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called Court summon from the CCB and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters.
“While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law.”
Dickson said that they considered the step, as directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region.
“This is totally unacceptable as it is reflective of the South South story of endless marginalization and intimidation.”
He added, “the unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement was still very fresh.
In attendance were Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Emmanuel Odom of Akwa-Ibom, Prof. Ben Ayade of Cross-River and that of Delta Ifeanyi Okowa, who left before the end of the meeting.