Ekweremadu Joins Others In Condemning CJN Onnoghen’s Trial

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has described the federal government’s trial of the Chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen over false assets declaration, as “ill-advised and dangerous.”

While stating that the trial is extremely dangerous for democracy and can only divide the country, the deputy senate president called on the government to withdraw the charges and apologise to the judiciary.

“I consider the charges against the chief justice of Nigeria, His Lordship, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as ill-advised and dangerous, especially after similar attempts at the leadership of the national assembly failed,” the senator said.

“This is extremely dangerous for democracy and can only divide the country further as well as alienate us as country very low in upholding the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

“I advice the attorney-general of the federation to immediately withdraw the charges and apologise to the judiciary. We certainly can’t travel this road.”

In a statement issued earlier, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, advised the government to ensure that the trial of the CJN does not cause chaos in the judicial system and that the due process is not compromised.

“It is important for the government and members of the public to know that as somebody who has travelled this route before, we should refrain from any media trial and political players should avoid abusing the judicial process in order to achieve what they could not get through normal political contests. Everybody who is being tried should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is the underlining principle of our justice system,” the statement issued by his spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu read.

“The proposed trial of the CJN has once again opened up the debate on the transparency and neutrality of the fight against corruption. The haste with which this trial is being pursued leaves a lot to be desired. From last Wednesday when the so-called petition against the CJN was initiated to the period the trial is scheduled to commence has been barely three working days whereas there are pending cases where the individuals involved have been indicted some months ago but no prosecution is being considered.

“All these subjective actions politicise the anti-graft fight. They weaken national institutions. They send wrong signals. The CJN is not above the law but his trial puts the entire judicial system on trial. It sends a signal to the entire world about our judiciary. It has implications for the confidence of local and foreign investors about the system of adjudication over disputes in our country. Thus, the matter should be handled with care, demonstrating intense transparency and strict adherence to due process.

“This trial, coming just about a month to the commencement of the presidential elections, the aftermath of which the CJN and the judiciary he is leading are set to play crucial adjudicatory role, has already raised suspicion about the real motive. There are already suggestions that this plan is set to disorganize the judicial arm after constant attempts by agents of State to undermine the federal legislature.

“Therefore, the entire country and the international community will be watching closely every step in this trial because it is definitely unusual, unprecedented and will set a record in the engagement among the three arms of government recognised in our presidential system. This trial definitely has implications for the principle of separation of powers and concept of checks and balance embedded in our presidential system of government,” Saraki said.

Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said it is important that due process is followed because Nigeria is a country governed by laws and not dictates of men.

A statements by his spokesperson, Turaki Hassan read, “This is a matter that affects another arm of government and its head which should be treated with caution so as not to send the wrong signal that there is a political undertone or other ulterior motives to the issue.

“As we raised our voice when the National Assembly was invaded by hooded security men last year, it is incumbent on us as the legislature to voice our concerns because we operate under a system where three arms of government are co – equal branches and enjoy a measure of independence guaranteed by the Constitution.

“As we approach the general elections, it is incumbent on the prosecutorial authorities to exercise caution and treat matters of this nature with utmost circumspection.

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