After an emergency meeting held to address several issues affecting the judiciary, the National Judicial Council has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammed, to respond to various petitions written against them.
Backstory: The meeting of the legal body which took place on Tuesday in Abuja, and was chaired by Hon. Justice Umaru Abdullahi, CON, a former president of the Court of Appeal, came amidst the backdrop of a major constitutional crisis in the country. Onnoghen was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari, who said he relied on an order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The order is widely perceived to be contrary to the provisions of the law.
The NJC asked Onnoghen to respond to the petition raised against him by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education, accusing him of having funds and properties way above his earnings.
Justice Tanko Muhammed on the other hand was given the exact duration of time to fully respond to two separate petitions filed against him. One by a group under the aegis of Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative and the other by former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba.
The first of the two petitions against Muhammed was filed by Chief Olisa Agbakoba, who called on the Council to address Muhammed’s breach of NJC rules by submitting himself to be sworn in by the President without approval by the Council, following the suspension of Onnoghen.
The NJC said it gave the judges one week, instead of the traditional two weeks to respond to the allegations due to the “gravity of the matters involved.”
Transfer of CCT Petition: The Council through a statement signed by its Director of Information, Soji Oye, stated that a petition filed against the Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar based on allegations of abuse of power by the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, would be forwarded to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), for further action.
“Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service (FJSC), which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.”
The Council is set to reconvene its sitting on February 11.