Nigeria’s Buhari suspends chief judge, drawing opposition ire before election

Nigeria’s Buhari suspends chief judge, drawing opposition ire before election

The Senate will on Tuesday reconvene to deliberate on the controversial suspension of of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani told TVC News in a telephone interview that the lawmakers have been summoned to the red chambers barely two days after legislative business was adjourned till 16th February.

Britain's High Commission said the timing "risks affecting both domestic and worldwide perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections", while the US embassy called for issues raised by the suspension to be solved swiftly and peacefully.

The president on Friday said he had suspended chief justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen who has been asked to appear before a tribunal over allegations of breaching asset-declaration rules.

The former military ruler, from the All Progressives Congress (APC) party, is expected to be run close by Atiku Abubakar, from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Nigerians have pointed out that the suspension occurred shortly before the chief justice was to swear in members of various election petition tribunals.

It said further that "Resignation was the only meaningful option for the suspended Chief Justice".

The Coalition of United Political Parties, an opposition grouping supporting Abubakar, meanwhile called it "a judicial coup that must be resisted by all lovers of democracy".

The NBA, whose own president is fighting corruption charges, warned the executive arm of government's actions were unconstitutional and "portends a slide into anarchy".

Civil society groups have also criticised the suspension.

He was cleared of similar non-declaration of assets charges on appeal at Onnoghen's Supreme Court a year ago.

Buhari also accused him of frustrating the war against corruption by freeing graft suspects before his court.

Law professor Itse Sagay, who heads a government-appointed advisory body on graft, defended Buhari, who indicated Onnoghen should have recused himself after being charged.

He said he was acting on the directive of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

"Morally, he should not be in that office considering what has happened".

Buhari seized power in December 1983 by overthrowing civilian president Shehu Shagari, ruling with an iron fist until he was ousted by general Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985.

"We urge Nigerians across divides to show support and solidarity with the President in his bid to fast track the fight against corruption no matter whose ox is gored".

The suspension would "send a correct signal to other judges to sit up", he said.

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