The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, is debunking the presumption that the Nigerian judiciary is independent from the executive arm of government. In a statement by his lead counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, the CJN alleged that the Court of Appeal has been ordered to stay away from giving judgement in the appeals he filed six weeks ago.
- He said that other political and election matters were quickly treated “within hours”, but the Appeal Court is yet to give judgment in his appeals which they heard six weeks ago.
- “The appeal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, six weeks after argument was ordered to be kept away in the file,” he said.
- He warned that even though Onnoghen is the one currently in the dock, a dangerous precedent is being set that could affect anyone else.
An institutional weakness: The Nigerian judiciary, according to the statement, has clearly been shown through this case to be “very weak, vulnerable and not independent”
- He decried the fact that even the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) “has by reason of personal leadership ambition been rendered ineffective, divided and weak.” And there is “no association of Nigerian judges to speak a word.”
One constitutional weakness: The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), which is hearing the case, ought to have been given “independence, impartiality and non-interference” by the framers of the Constitution, he said.
Between the Lines: The statement by the CJN’s counsel makes a weighty allegation that the judiciary and the second highest court in the country are taking orders from the executive. That is against the principles of justice. If the allegations are true, at what point did Onnoghen realize this? Just for his case or it has been happening before now? If the latter is the case, what has he done as CJN to call it out and draw a line?