The Supreme Court, has fixed Tuesday, 5th February, 2019, for the hearing of the suit filed by the Senate, to challenge the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
It was learnt on Saturday, that the suit, being a constitutional matter, would be heard by a full panel of seven Justices of the Supreme Court.
It is expected that the Acting CJN, Tanko Muhammad, would not be on the seven-man bench, but he would be the one to pick the seven Justices of the apex court to hear the suit, or assign it to one of the already existing panels.
It was gathered that the Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, had as at Saturday, prepared its defence, and would file it on Monday, ahead of the Tuesday’s hearing.
“We have been served with the Supreme Court’s hearing notice. Our defence is ready, and we will file it on Monday”, one of the sources, who pleaded not to be named revealed.
Newsmen recalls, that President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 25, suspended Onnoghen, on the basis of an exparte order issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, where the Federal Government had charged the CJN with six counts of non-declaration of assets.
The President had immediately sworn-in the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Muhammad, as the Acting CJN.
However, Bukola Saraki’s Senate had in its suit, filed on January 28, and marked SC.76/2019, asked the apex court to declare that Onnoghen’s suspension, which was without the support of two-thirds majority of the Senate, was a violation of Section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution.
It asked the Supreme Court for an order reinstating Justice Onnoghen as the CJN.
The suit also asked the apex court to issue an order restraining the two defendants in the suit, President Buhari and the AGF, Abubakar Malami, from continuing or repeating the violation of the Constitution, and disregarding the power of the Senate, in respect to the suspension of the CJN.
The Senate, through its Lawyer, Erokoro, argued that the President could not on the directive of the CCT, suspend the CJN, without the two-thirds majority of the Senate, or appoint Muhammad as the Acting CJN, without the Senate’s confirmation.