On May 17th, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari last month, was lawful or not. Prior to this time, the matter had been argued before various courts in the land from the High Court to the Industrial Court to the Appeal Court, and of course the Code of Conduct Tribunal whose chairman originally recommended Onnoghen’s suspension.
The Supreme Court, which Onnoghen led until January 25th, fixed the date for his judgement on Thursday after listening to arguments from the various counsels in the suit filed by the Cross River State government.
Back Story: Onnoghen is an indigene of Cross River, a state that is governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as opposed to the All Progressives Congress (APC) which leads at the center. The Cross River government is asking the Supreme Court to set aside Onnoghen’s suspension.
Cross River’s argument: According to its counsel, Lucius Nwosu (SAN), Onnoghen’s suspension from office by President Muhammadu Buhari, based on an ex-parte order by a lay magistrate (the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal) violates the Constitution, particularly Section 292(1).
FG’s argument: According to the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, who represented the Federal Government, the plaintiff (Cross RIver government) lacked the right (locus standi) to approach the Supreme Court on the issue, because Onnoghen’s suspension was personal to him and cannot be interpreted to amount to a dispute between the Federal Government and the Cross River State Government.
Supreme Court position: Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour who led the seven-man panel of the court announced that judgement in the suit has been reserved for May 17th.