President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen has led to a huge public outcry in Nigeria with many taking to social media to express their grave displeasure, but moreso, what they consider a slide into dictatorship.
On the 25th of January, through his Twitter handle, President Buhari announced the suspension of Justice Onnoghen based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The Chief Justice failed to declare all his assets as stipulated by the constitution. The suspension of the Chief justice comes barely three weeks to a hotly contested presidential election that will take place in February.
There has been widespread criticism on what the Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki has termed a ‘coup on the constitution.’ President Buhari, a former military head of state swore in Justice Ibrahim Tanko as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
I call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to refuse to be pushed out of office. The NBA must rise to resist this assault to our constitution. Our judges must rise; Civil Society Organizations must rise. This is potentially the beginning of our descent into constitutional anarchy.
— Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN (@oagbakoba) January 28, 2019
Nigerian human rights lawyer Femi Falana in an interview aired on Channels Television said “the power to suspend a sitting judge in Nigeria, including the Chief Justice, has to be on the recommendation of the National Judiciary Council. But in this case the President was reported to have acted on an exparte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”
Nigerians have called for protests on what they call the erosion of the rule of law. The British High Commission in Nigeria, the US Mission in Nigeria and the EU Election Observation Mission have all issued out statements stating their concern on the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, questioning if “due process was followed”. The Nigerian government responded by warning the U.S and U.K to stay off domestic affairs in the country.
Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “I call on all Nigerians to take the strongest possible view of the President`s conduct. I am also shocked that Mr Justice Mohammed Tanko would have offered himself to be sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
While more condemnation on President Buhari’s action comes in, many are envisioning darker days ahead including the possibility of internet shut down.