The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Wednesday reached a decision on the petition against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the Acting Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad. It submitted the recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari but did not release it to the public, fueling speculations.
Backstory: Onnoghen was controversially suspended on the grounds of an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act. Buhari replaced him with Justice Tanko Muhammad (in acting capacity). Following the suspension, the NJC constituted a five-member panel led by Justice S.A. Akintan to investigate both Onnoghen and Muhammad.
What we know: TheScoop spoke with insiders involved with the Justice Akintan-led panel and here is what we know:
- Onnoghen will be compulsorily retired and paid his full entitlements.
- Onnoghen will be allowed to become a member of the Council of State for life, as is the case with any other living former CJN.
- It was recommended that the case against the CJN be dropped by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
- Acting CJN Justice Muhammad Tanko was absolved of any wrong doing.
Bottom line: The panel did not find CJN Onnoghen guilty, however they did not exonerate him. It is generally believed that it was in the interest of the integrity of the courts to let him go. However this decision plays into the hands of Buhari who might be emboldened to embark on a judicial cleanse without recourse to due process like in this case.