To say that we totally condemn the coupist and impeachable ousting of the CJN, Hon Justice Walter Onoghen by the sitting coupist President is an under-statement. The CJN’s purported ousting is also nothing short of political witch-hunting, abuse of power and office; and ethno-religious persecution and intolerance. The coupists are so callously impatient that they could not wait for the substantive CJN to statutorily reach his age of retirement on 22nd December 2020 having been born on 22nd December 1950 or pursue his ousting through due, diligent and constitutional processes.
We have carefully followed the reactions and counter-reactions trailing the said impeachment of the Constitution by way of coupist removal of the CJN and unconstitutional appointment of a vulnerable and amenable element as “acting CJN”. We have specifically read and analyzed the scripted speech of Mr. President and reactions from the Nigerian Bar Association and the opposition political parties, etc.
We also read the pro establishment reaction of Prof Itse Sagay, representing the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, justifying the coupist conduct of Mr. President. We have further ransacked the existing Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria particularly Sections 291 and 292 and the powers of the National Judicial Council over top judicial officers like CJN as contained in Supp. Section 20 under Part 1 of the Third Schedule in the Constitution.
In all these, it is validly found that circumstances under which Mr. President can remove the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria contain no minutest ambiguities and are clearly stated and spelt out. The conduct of President in the instant case is not only unconstitutional and ultra vires, but also impeachable. No section of the Constitution allows or empowers Mr. President to remove a substantive CJN by ex parte order of substantive or auxiliary court. It is also surprising how an auxiliary court that sat on 22nd January 2019 and adjourned to 28th January 2019; could turn around and grant an order ex parte a day after it had adjourned to 28th January 2019.
By Laws of Nigeria, the closest, quickest and easiest way provided for a sitting CJN to be removed by the President through the recommendation of the NJC is by the Presidency or Mr. President dragging the CJN to NJC with booklet of evidence of his or her misconducts and if credibly investigated and indicted by the NJC, Mr. President can safely and correctly act or remove him or her based on NJC recommendation. In presiding over the case or probe against the CJN, in the event the President drags him to the NJC, the existing convention provides that the meeting be presided over by the next most senior Justice of Supreme Court to ensure fairness and justness.
This procedure has been judiciously followed in Nigeria with Mr. President acting accordingly and safely in law until his latest goof. By virtue of Supp. Section 21 (b) of the Part 1 of the Third Schedule in the Constitution, powers of the National Judicial Council (NJC) include to recommend to the President the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph A of this paragraph (i.e. CJN, JSC, PCA, CJs of Federal High Court, etc); and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers.
Further, contrary to Prof Itse Sagay’s misinformed and utterly biased opinion, justifying the President’s coupist conduct, the CJN can never be removed presidentially by mere or questionable ex parte order of an auxiliary court (i.e. CCT) or by lodgment of a criminal complaint before CCT. Contrary to Prof Itse Sagay’s view, too, mere lodgment of a criminal complaint against the CJN before CCT is not and does not amount to “a breach of code of conduct”; until the matter is disposed and the accused found guilty and sentenced. Prof Itse Sagay’s opinion is also not only mis-interpretative and incorrect but it is further viewed as technical admission of Mr. President’s latest executive blunder and abuse of office.
President’s Speech: A Voice Of Jacob & Hand Of Esau
Nigerians are freshly invited to re-read and analyze the well publicized text of the President’s address leading to the presidential pronouncement illegally and unconstitutionally removing the CJN. The President’s address is nothing short of voice of Jacob and hand of Esau. It is also beyond what a mere speech writer can prepare. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, possibly joined by Prof Itse Sagay; strongly have a case to answer and must be asked by Nigerians to tell them who actually wrote or prepared that speech or address and advised the person of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Apart from the fact that the President we know or have is not formally educated beyond arithmetic indices or grammatical parts of speech level, Nigerians are all aware or it is a public knowledge that Mr. President is aging and has some fundamental issues to settle with his physical and coherent health. Those who saw Mr. President few days ago in Onitsha, Anambra State confirmed or attested to this fact. As a matter of fact, a good number of those that graced Mr. President’s visit to Onitsha and Enugu said they went to find out if “it is Buhari of old Buhari they knew or been heard of or Buhari of “Jubril of Sudan”.
Other than the above, the way and manner with which the constitution and constitutionalism particularly the existing 1999 Constitution has been handled in the past 44 months or since June 2015 by the present central Government is utterly coupist and impeachable. The Constitution and the principles of Rule of Law are not only debased and castrated with reckless abandon but they are also applied in skewed, unpopular and undemocratic forms.
As a matter of fact, the country has since June 2015 been governed extra constitutionally or through personal opinions, self interpretative and self help or initiative methods. Prof Yemi Osinbajo and Prof Itse Sagay have severally been accused by critics of “usurping the Constitution and the Rule of Law” or undermining “the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” through their biased opinions including defense and justification of Government’s reprehensible policies and conducts.
There also seems to be a grand design to use “principle of vicarious liability” to gross disadvantage of the person and personality of Mr. President; whereby in a cabalistic manner, the person of Mr. President is deliberately, mischievously and selfishly pushed or encouraged or misled or ill-advised or misinformed by members of the country’s ruling cabal particularly the so called “Learned Silk” or “activist legal icons” among them; to take or embark on taking certain unpopular and disintegrative positions, making the President and his person to solely bear the consequences or face damnation of such unpopular and disintegrative actions or conducts while in office or after leaving office. These are deliberately designed using the principle of “vicarious liability”.
In other words, when the Presidency of Buhari finally ends, the person and personality of President Muhammadu Buhari will singly bear all the consequences and damnation alone, while those who actually caused, misled, ill-advised and misinformed him into taking such ill-fated actions will go scot-free or get transformed into “old wine in new bottle”; especially in the nowadays Nigeria’s battered polity hit by gale of defection and political trading or mercantilism. Such was the case with the likes of Sani Abacha, Olusegun Obasanjo, Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
In the instance case, therefore, it will almost be an act of impossibility for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo both as a Prof of Law, Senior Advocate of Nigerian Legal Practice and so called “human rights activist”; not to be circumstantially or directly linked to the latest constitutional coup or impeachment.
Prof Osinbajo since assuming office as Nigeria’s Vice President has received several condemnations from the informed critics for disadvantageously using his position as law professor to undermine constitutionalism and principles of rule of law and democracy in Nigeria. This he does by unleashing and imposing his personal biases and opinions as the law and governing principles on Nigeria and Nigerians.
This explains why we have resolved henceforth to include his name and position as vicarious perpetrator or accomplice in our national, regional and international advocacy campaigns against state crimes and other forms of mis-governance perpetrated and perpetuated by the present central Government in Nigeria. Also individual or collective victim or public interest litigation within and beyond national borders shall henceforth have his name and position included until he reverses himself and correctly and credibly parades himself as a true professor of law and activist Senior Advocate of Nigerian Legal Practice.
We therefore totally align ourselves with the positions already taken on the issue by other democratic movements including NBA and CUPP; provided they are not turned into the roaring of toothless lion. All courts in Nigeria must be shut down and organized labour movement down tools until the constitutional impeachment is unconditionally reversed and the CJN presidentially reinstated by Mr. President.
For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Barr Chinwe Umeche and Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli
Mobile Line: +2348182411462
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights & Democracy Organizations (SBCHROs)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Aloysius Attah and Jerry Chukwuokoro, PhD
Mobile Lines: +2348174090052, +2348035090548 and +2348035372962
Groups in the Coalition:
· CLO, Southeast Zone
· CLO, Anambra State Branch
· Forum for Promotion of National Ethos & Values (FPNEV)
· Igbo Ekunie Initiative
· Int’l Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ISPHRI)
· Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Dev (FENRAD)
· Society for Economic Rights & Social Justice (SERSj)
· Human Rights Organization of Nigeria (HRON)
· Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA)
· Southeast Good Governance Forum (SEGGF)
· Society Watch & Advocacy Project (of Intersociety)-WASP
· Initiative for Ideal Dev & Emancipatory Leadership in Nigeria (IDEAL)
· Igbo National Council (INC)
· Anambra Human Rights Forum (ANHRF)
· Voice of the Voiceless Int’l (VOVI)
· Easy Life Initiative for Rural Youths (ELIRY)
· Igbo Bu Igbo Organization
· Community Empowerment Network
· Southeast Movement against Transactional Politics & Profligacy