The suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari, broke international human rights standards on the independence of the Judiciary, and the separation of powers, a United Nations, UN, Expert, said on Monday, while ‘passing a vote of no confidence’ on Buhari.
Recall, that Buhari, who was a Military Ruler in the 1980s, and was voted into office in 2015, under a democratic government, is hoping to win a new term as President, in the general elections, scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 16.
“International human rights standards provide that Judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence”, said Diego Garcia-Sayan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
“Any decision to suspend or remove a Judge from Office should be fair, and should be taken by an independent authority, such as a Judicial Council, or a Court”, he said in a statement.
Garcia-Sayan, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate legal and judicial independence, said that, dismissing Judges without following legal procedures, or offering a chance to contest the decision, is incompatible with the independence of the Judiciary, hence President Buhari got it wrong.
Newsmen could recall, that Buhari suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, on January 25, following an order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, and replaced him with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad, as the Acting CJN.
However, four courts superior to the Tribunal, had already ordered a stay of proceedings on the matter, and the Tribunal had previously said that it lacked jurisdiction over cases involving Judicial Officers, Garcia-Sayan said.
The UN statement added that, some of the Judges and the defence Lawyers involved in Onnoghen’s case, have been subject to serious threats, pressures, and interference.