SERAP gives NJC 5 days to take over suspended CJN's case

SERAP also called on the NJC to set up a committee to investigate the allegations of breach of constitutional asset declaration requirements against Onnoghen.

Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo shaking hands with Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The organisation also called on the NJC to set up a committee to investigate the allegations of breach of constitutional asset declaration requirements against Onnoghen.

SERAP said that the embattled CJN should be asked to step down until the investigation is concluded.

It also called on the NJC not to hesitate to refer the case to appropriate anti-corruption bodies for prosecution if the allegations against Onnoghen is established.

This was made known in a statement issued by SERAP’s senior legal adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju.

In the statement, the organisation asked the NJC to: “consider the issue of appointment of Justice Muhammed with a view to ensuring strict compliance with constitutional provisions. The NJC should take the recommended action within 5 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will take appropriate legal action to compel the NJC to take action on the case.”

The statement reads: “The urgent intervention by the NJC would remove the allegations against Justice Onnoghenfrom the vicissitudes of political controversy, and a clear and present danger to the independence and authority of the judiciary. It would also help to reverse the country's increasing movement toward anarchy or despotism.

“It is in time like this that the NJC must be most vigilant and alive to its constitutional duties, if it is not to permit a diminution of our treasured constitutional rights.

“Neither knee-jerk reactions by politicians nor abuse of the legal and judicial process by the government and some senior lawyers would be acceptable to break the constitutional logjam. The NJC ought to be concerned with the gravity of allegations against Justice Onnoghen.

“This matter has inevitably thrown our country into a judicial-cum-constitutional crisis, which if not urgently addressed would lead to political crisis that would seriously put at risk Nigeria’s fledgling democracy, consequently exacerbating the declining respect for human rights at all levels of government.”

Save the judiciary

SERAP also called on the NJC not to stand and watch while the authority and independence of the judiciary is diminished.

“The NJC should not and cannot stand-by while the authority and independence of the judiciary is diminished to the point at which the citizens lose confidence and trust in its ability to render justice to those need.

“SERAP is concerned that the politicization of our judiciary poses the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary, to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and would if not urgently addressed lead to denial of access to justice to the most marginalized and vulnerable section of the population.

“The politicisation of the judiciary by politicians would endanger Nigerians’ fundamental human rights and the country’s international human rights obligations, and consequently, the fundamental principles of our constitutional democracy.

“It is the responsibility of the NJC to ensure the preservation of our constitutional values and to prevent the politicisation of the judiciary and politicians from running roughshod over sacred judicial functions, and consequently, the rights of citizens.

“Nigerians deserve a judiciary capable of serving as essential bulwark of constitutional government, a constant guardian of the rule of law, and owing fidelity to no person or party. Unless the NJC acts as requested, the mandates, ability and authority of the judiciary to act as a check on the political branches of government and to protect citizens’ human rights would be drastically curtailed,” SERAP added.

Judiciary in crisis

According to the organisation, Onnoghen’s case and the Federal Government’s action has plunged the judiciary into crisis

SERAP also said “The NJC should not and cannot stand-by while the authority and independence of the judiciary is diminished to the point at which the citizens lose confidence and trust in its ability to render justice to those need.

“SERAP is concerned that the politicization of our judiciary poses the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary, to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and would if not urgently addressed lead to denial of access to justice to the most marginalized and vulnerable section of the population.

“The politicisation of the judiciary by politicians would endanger Nigerians’ fundamental human rights and the country’s international human rights obligations, and consequently, the fundamental principles of our constitutional democracy.

“It is the responsibility of the NJC to ensure the preservation of our constitutional values and to prevent the politicisation of the judiciary and politicians from running roughshod over sacred judicial functions, and consequently, the rights of citizens.

“Nigerians deserve a judiciary capable of serving as essential bulwark of constitutional government, a constant guardian of the rule of law, and owing fidelity to no person or party. Unless the NJC acts as requested, the mandates, ability and authority of the judiciary to act as a check on the political branches of government and to protect citizens’ human rights would be drastically curtailed.”

Reactions

Justice Onnoghen’s suspension has sparked a lot of reactions, especially from the British and United States governments.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Olisa Agbakoba in his reaction, lambasted the newly sworn in CJN, Tanko Mohammed for accepting President Buhari’s appointment.

Another prominent lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) says lawyers should shut down in protest of the CN’s suspension.

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