Governor of Benue State, Samuel Orton, has condemned the attempt by Federal Government to force the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen to resign or be removed.
He described the move as a deliberate ploy to intimidate and gag the judiciary in gross violation of the principle of separation of powers.
The Governor, who made this known on Sunday in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said the manner in which the Federal Government plotted to remove the CJN was suspicious, had smacks of desperation and lacked regard for due process.
Recall that CJN Onnoghen had charges of false asset declaration and illegal operation of foreign bank accounts rushed against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and the official documents of the charges leaked to the press by federal government sources.
The statement reads: “We urge all Nigerians to resist this unwarranted assault on the country’s Judiciary and save democracy from the hands of its enemies.
“It is now clear that after unsuccessful attempts to intimidate the National Assembly, the same undemocratic forces have turned their attacks on the Judiciary. This is a clarion call on men and women of goodwill to condemn the move aimed at suppressing the judicial arm of government.
“Due process and the rule of law must be seen to be in operation in the country. If Justice Walter Onnoghen is guilty of the charges filed against him, it is the duty of the courts to determine not the Federal Government or its agents.
The Federal Government has apparently chosen to ignore the provisions of extant laws and judicial process which hold that either the National Judicial Council or the National Assembly must play a role in the removal of the CJN. The President is expected to act on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.
“The decision of the All Progressives Congress, APC administration to flout this well established procedure further reveals their agenda to weaken the Nigeria’s democratic institutions ahead of this year’s general election.”
Ortom further called on President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the principle of separation of powers and pave way for the rule of law, so as not to throw the country into constitutional crisis, saying, “The current pressure on Justice Walter Onnoghen and the Judiciary in general is ill-advised, unnecessary and unacceptable.”