EU ‘concerned’ after Nigeria’s president suspends top judge

The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said it was “very concerned” about Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the country’s chief justice just weeks before a presidential election.

The mission, which is set to observe the presidential vote, said the timing of the suspension “raises concerns about opportunity for electoral justice.”

Buhari, who was a military ruler in the 1980s and elected to office in 2015, is seeking a second term in the February 16 election.

The judiciary and the chief justice would play a major role in the event of a disputed election. Past elections in the oil-rich and notoriously corrupt country have been marred by irregularities and violence.

Financial misconduct charges

The suspension of Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen on Friday came as he was preparing to swear in members for election petition tribunals.


Onnoghen faces trial for allegedly failing to declare foreign currency assets as required of officials under Nigerian law. The allegations surfaced two weeks ago.

In addition, “the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law,” Buhari said in a statement on Friday. CJN refers to the chief justice of Nigeria.

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

However, Buhari accused the courts of “stalling of the trial” under the influence of Onnoghen and his lawyers’ tactical moves.

He was therefore forced to suspend Onnoghen because the judge didn’t voluntarily step down and swear in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed as Nigeria’s most senior judge, Buhari said. He said he was acting on the directive of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Under Nigerian law, the chief justice would only have to step down if convicted or if the Senate upholds a presidential request to do so by a two-thirds majority.

Muhammed, like the president, is from Nigeria’s largely Muslim north while Onnoghen is from the predominantely Christian south. Buhari has been accused of stacking his government with people from the north.

‘Brazen dictatorial act’

Buhari’s top election challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, accused Buhari of attempting to affect the outcome of the presidential election.

“This brazen dictatorial act is the latest action in the ongoing rape of our nation’s hard earned democracy by those who dined with anti-democratic forces and is symptomatic of the increasing desperation that President Buhari and the cabal pulling the strings have as February 16 2019 draws near,” he said in a statement.

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

“The action of the Executive portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the rule of law and due process. It amounts to an absolute breach of the constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council,” it said in a statement.

The United States and Britain have also said anyone involved in vote interference and violence would face consequences, including visa restrictions.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Deutsche Welle 1
Guest Author

Related stories

The Portfolio: Antony Kaminju

Antony Kaminju shares his experience of making a photo of the Roving Bantu Kitchen’s Sifiso Ntuli

African science fiction: rereading the The Palm-Wine Drinkard

Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola wields language as the ultimate form of technology

Extract from ‘The Journey’: Responses to the archive

This sequence of texts was written in response to various photographs of Nigeria made between 1920 and 1929 that form part of the Colonial Office photographic collection

The world’s warriors are under attack, but we must keep on fighting

The murder of Fikile Ntshangase in KwaZulu-Natal was not an isolated incident. Around the globe, from Nigeria to Brazil, environmental activists are similarly being silenced, and it is our duty to continue this struggle

Nigeria’s queers say ‘enough’

Notorious police unit that harassed LGBTQ+ community disbanded after widespread protests.

Meet Donald Trump’s Nigerian cheerleaders

If Nigerians got to choose the next US president, Donald Trump would be the clear favourite
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…