By Ajogwu Jerry
Famous Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has initiated plans to save the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen from the lingering debacle.
Falana has urged the Federal Government to withdraw the charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, while Onnoghen would be prevailed to resign.
In a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN requesting for withdrawal of the charges against Onnoghen, Falana advised that having submitted a petition against the suspended CJN before the National Judicial Council, NJC, the right thing for government to do is to file a nolli prosecu before the CCT to discontinue the CJN’s trial and await the decision of the NJC.
In the letter, Falana said: “Having confirmed that you have since submitted a petition to the National Judicial Council alleging grave misconduct against the Chief Justice, I am compelled to request you, once again, to file a nolle prosequi to discontinue the charge pending against his Lordship at the Code of Conduct Tribunal without any further delay.
“The charge should not be allowed to hang like a Sword of Damocles on the head of the Chief Justice while he is being investigated by the National Judicial Council. In view of your implicit confidence in the ability of members of the National Judicial Council to resolve the matter you ought to accede to the request to terminate the proceedings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal forthwith.
“As you are no doubt aware, the withdrawal of the case from the Code of Conduct Tribunal will lead to the immediate vacation of the ex parte order relied upon by President Muhammadu Buhari to justify the illegal suspension of the Chief Justice from office and the appointment of Justice Tanko Mohammad as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria. Even though by virtue of Paragraph 10 (2) (a) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) the Code of Conduct Tribunal is empowered to order any public officer to vacate office the power cannot be exercised until such a public officer has been tried and convicted for breaching the provisions of the code of conduct for pubic officers.”
“But as a public officer cannot be removed from office on the basis of an ex parte order granted by any Court or Tribunal in Nigeria we urge you to advise President Buhari to reverse the suspension of the Chief Justice.
“Once the suspension is reversed Justice Walter Onnoghen will then be prevailed upon to resign as the Chief Justice having lost the moral authority to preside over the affairs on the juridical organ of the Government of the Federation. However, if his Lordship does not call it quits or if the National Judicial Council does not recommend his removal from office you may wish to exercise your powers under section 174 of the Constitution to prosecute him for failure to declare his assets which is a punishable offence under the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act,” he advised.