A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (retd.), on Friday, in Abuja, opened up for the first time on his unceremonious removal by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) before the general elections..
According to him, prior to his removal, there had been rumour from the Executive that he held a meeting with former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
He bared his mind during the public presentation of a book titled, ‘Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms, and Precedents’, written by a renowned legal practitioner, Chief Ogwu James Onoja (SAN).
Onnoghen said the rumour was thick and spread fast, but he decided not to react to it because he never travelled to Dubai or held any meeting with anybody, including Atiku.
The former CJN however said that he was surprised that despite the fact that the Federal Government had all the machinery to investigate the allegation of the rumoured meeting with Atiku, it never did so, but opted to unlawfully go after him and his office.
Onnoghen said that the situation got to the peak when all of a sudden, his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was arranged, even when he had not been invited or accused of any wrongdoing.
He said that the action of the government against him further got to the peak when in the course of the trial and when parties had joined issues, an ex-parte application was suddenly brought in, and what followed was his illegal and unlawful suspension as the CJN.
The ex-CJN said, “Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I ceased to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978.
“In the Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. we sit in a panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given an opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen but for all Nigerians who had sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To say the least, the period of my ordeal was the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary
“As I have severally, Judicial officers must be courageous. And I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me in the hand of the executive arm of the government.
“Emerging Nigerian Judges should not go the direction of injustice because, without courageous judges and justice, Nigeria is doomed.
“Here, let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicized, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law. We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour. Truth stands, crush it, it will stand because it is truth.”
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