THE SUSPENSION OF JUSTICE ONNOGBEH AND ITS ENSUING CACOPHONY
By: Lawal Jamiu, 300level Microbiology
“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst”___Aristotle
For the past weeks, hot debate has engulfed the Nigerian judicial corridor, ranging from Words the duel of word to Interpretation and reinterpretation of law and Orders and counter orders have been pronounced. The views of legal luminaries have been torrential and legal fireworks have been unleashed.Series of Clamor for justice has filled the air. Just for a single man; Justice Walter Onnogbeh – the Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
As if that was not enough. Just yesterday, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari suspended the embattled CJN, relying on an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal calling for the suspension of the CJN from office and swiftly appointed Justice Ibrahim Tanko in an acting capacity.
This creates an outburst in the Judicial corridor, political sphere and on social media where some people considered the removal to be judiciously while some learned people regard same to be illegal and absurd. The interesting part of it is that, all these sudden actions are happening at a bewildering speed.
Dated back to history, it is crystal clear that, this is not the first time the Nigerian judicial arm of government has been in the limelight. On October 8 2016, the Department of State Security (DSS) made a nocturnal raid on the homes of some judges on the grounds of alleged corruption in which they were charged and detained to face corruption charges.
However the Indictment, trial and suspension of Justice Walter Onnogbeh, the Chief Justice of the nation, the head of the judicial organ and the No. 1 interpreter of law will definitely garner much limelight and raise eyebrows. Not just the CJN that is on trial, but the nation’s judiciary is on trial. This is one of the most challenging periods for the judiciary in the chequered history of the organ.
The embattled CJN was arraigned on a six count charges which most notably include; failure to declare some of his personal assets and having a domiciliary account with foreign currency as against the code of conduct bureau regulating judicial officers . Parading the ex-CJN before a criminal court is anomalous because the interpreter of the law should not be ignorant of the law. But the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; will made it possible for evil to triumph. How will justice thrive in an atmosphere of impunity?
The court of appeal pronouncement that a sitting judge cannot be tried in court until he had been probed and sanctioned by the National Judicial Council (NJC) – is something ridiculous. The same judicial system created, groomed, watered and nurtured by the CJN is the very one to handle is indictment? Just like arraigning a murderer before his family for trial will partially or completely taint natural justice.
As it’s less than 25days to the major tournament of a democracy driven society – the general elections; allegations and counter-allegations to weaken the Nigerian judicial system by the present administration, will definitely sway the minds of innocent Nigerians.
Every action, inaction and reaction of the current administration will be turned into a weapon of mudslide for or against the electorate chances. This has led to all the pandemonium occurring within the past weeks. There is no right time for justice; anytime is the right time because justice delay is justice denied.
Perhaps the most important question to be asked is whether the man at the center stage of this controversies is guilty of the charges leveled against him or not? Worrisomely, he had already conceded guilty; citing “mistake’’ and “forgetfulness’’ for assets’ declaration in his own written admission against the charges. The head of the judicial organ should have known better- if not best!
If the sanity and sanctity of the Judicial organ is questionable, then the hope of the common man is lost and buried!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!