The National Judicial Council (NJC) has taken a decision on the Report of the Five-Man Committee set up to investigate petitions against suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, and Acting CAN, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
Unexpectedly, the NJC is giving Nigerians the silent treatment, opting instead to send its report to President Muhammadu Buhari, because of “the nature of the decision reached”.
A statement by the NJC spokesman, Mr. Soji Oye reads: “The National Judicial Council reconvened today in an Emergency Meeting to consider the Report of the Five-Man Committee constituted to investigate the allegations of misconduct made against Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON and Hon. Mr. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR.
“Council decided that the allegations relating to assets declaration that were levelled against Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON were subjudice and therefore abstained from considering them.
“Council reached a decision on the petitions written by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others and conveyed its decision to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
“Council also resolved that, by the nature of the decision reached, it would be inappropriate to publicise it before conveying it to Mr. President.”
Recall that former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sent a petition against the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, accusing him of lending himself to a constitutional infraction.
He supported his claim stating that Justice Mohammed was a member of the NJC panel that removed Justice Obisike Orji of the Abia state High Court for accepting to be sworn in as Chief Judge by the Governor of Abia state without the recommendation of the NJC.
The petition reads: “On 25th of January 2019 President Mohammadu Buhari pursuant to an exparte order of the Code of the Conduct Tribunal purportedly suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghnen and purportedly swore in Hon. Justice Tanko Mohammed as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The Constitution is clear about the procedure for suspending or removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed on the recommendation of the NJC. See Section 153 (1), Paragraph 21 (a) of the 3rd Schedule and Section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Supreme Court decision in Elelu-Habeeb v AGF (2012) 40 WRN 1.
“Hon. Justice Tanko Mohammed is fully aware of the state of law, yet presented himself to be sworn in by the President. Incidentally, Justice Tanko Mohammed was a member of the NJC panel that removed Justice Obisike Orji of the Abia state High Court for accepting to be sworn in as Chief Judge by the Governor of Abia state without the recommendation of the NJC.
“It is a matter of regret that Justice Tanko Mohammed who participated in this process will lend himself to this constitutional infraction. We pray the NJC to determine this petition in line with the decision in Justice Obisike Orji by immediately removing Justice Tanko Mohammed as Justice of the Supreme Court on grounds of gross misconduct which has generated perhaps the most controversial crisis in Nigeria’s judicial history.
Shortly after Agbakoba’s petition, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also sent in a petition against Onnoghen, in addition to an earlier one by another group over his assets declaration.