Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has warned the United States (U.S), the United Kingdom (U.K) and the European Union (EU) against undue interference in Nigeria’s political affairs following the statements they all issued after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on Friday, January 25, 2019.
Speaking on Tuesday Live, a late-night programme on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) which is anchored by Cyril Stober, El-Rufai warned the UK, US and EU to desist from covert or overt interference in Nigeria’s affairs or face fatal consequences.
What did the U.S, UK and EU say?
After Onnoghen was suspended, the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria expressed concern over whether due process was followed and raised questions about the timing of the suspension, only days before Nigeria’s general elections.
The U.S also deplored the executive’s decision to suspend and replace the CJN and head of the judicial branch, without the support of the legislative branch.
“We note widespread Nigerian criticisms that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result,” the statement from the U.S embassy read.
In a separate statement, the British High Commission in Nigeria said it has “heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.
“We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions, but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely”.
The EU, which will be observing Nigeria’s elections on the ground, called “on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.
“The EU EOM (Election Observer Mission) will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities”.
El-Rufai goes hard on foreign interference
The Nigerian presidency immediately responded to the statements, warning that it would not condone meddling from foreign powers in its internal affairs.
El-Rufai is following in the presidency’s footsteps by warning the international community to steer clear or face the consequences.
“The comments were based on non-information and they are most irresponsible and I am happy that the presidency responded to them.
“As Nigerians, we must understand that these guys can sit pretty in their country and say things but when the crisis breaks we are here. We are the victims, our wives and children are the victims; and we must rise up and unite and say that no to violence in this country.”
The Kaduna governor added that; “Those that are calling for everyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags. Because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country.
“We’ve got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible and we know the history of those countries that are trying to teach us these things; we have read their history. We also know that in their stages of development they went through these challenges.
“So, please, let’s work together; let’s advise one another but don’t lecture us.”
Onnoghen is on trial for undeclared monies
Suspended Onnoghen will face trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged non-declaration of assets and for concealing undeclared monies in foreign currencies in domiciliary bank accounts.
President Buhari named the next most senior Judge in the Supreme Court, Tanko Mohammed, as Onnoghen's replacement in an acting capacity.
Nigeria holds federal and state elections on February 16 and March 2, 2019.