Nigeria's Buhari suspends chief judge; opposition cries foul

Minnie Murray
January 27, 2019

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday suspended Onnoghen, pending the completion of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and sworn in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, from Bauchi State, as the acting CJN.

"The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice", the European Union's election-observer mission said.

The U.S. and British embassies in Nigeria also released statements expressing concern over Buhari's decision to suspend Justice Onnoghen, saying the decision was made "without the support of the legislative branch".

London and Washington this week threatened consequences for anyone involved in electoral fraud or violence, including the refusal of visas.

"The attention of wife of the President has been drawn to a post on social media to the effect that she condemned the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria".

Nigeria's Federal High Court on Tuesday declined the government's request that Onnoghen be ordered to stand down.

"Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs".

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was a military ruler in the 1980s and was voted into office in 2015, will seek a second term in an election scheduled to take place on February 16.

According to the PDP and its campaign organization, the move to increase Value-Added Tax is anti-people and not in the best interest of Nigerians.

In a statement signed by the chairman of the party and co-chairman of the Presidential Campaign Council, Uche Secondus, he said the PDP has suspended its presidential campaign for the period of 72hours in protest of the suspension. In addition to that charge, Buhari said the security agencies found "suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars" in Onnoghen's personal accounts.

"We want President Buhari to know that Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, creed or political leaning, will never allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to push our nation to the abyss of anarchy", the opposition party said.

"I just hope it's not true", said Paul Usoro, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association.

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

Buhari on Friday said a court order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which is looking into the asset declaration allegations, directed him to suspend the judge.

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.

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