ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The South South Governors Forum and a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, have urged the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, not to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Monday for trial.
The South South Governors rose from an emergency meeting held in Abuja on Sunday accusing the Federal Government of making deliberate effort to humiliate Onnoghen and continue the marginalisation of the South South region.
In the communique issued at the end of the meeting, the governors drew the attention of President Buhari to the abrupt removal of Matthew Seiyefa as acting director-general of the Department of State Security (DSS), saying the attempt to forcefully remove Onnoghen from office follows the same pattern of humiliating the Niger Delta.
On his part, Fani-Kayode, gave the advice in a statement he sent to Sundiata Post on Saturday.
The statement reads;
“Ponder on this long and hard. Now that CJN Onnoghen has been ordered to step down please take note that in Nigeria today the the Presidency, the Federal Government, the National Assembly, the Judiciary, Security Agencies, Military, Intelligence Agencies, INEC and even the leading opposition party are all in the hands of northern Muslims.
I advise the CJN to ignore this monstrous, self-serving, unlawful and unconstitutional directive and refuse to vacate his office.
Anything short of that will be a capitulation to tyranny, injustice and servitude and it would result in dangerous and far reaching consequences for the unity of our country.
When the South/South governors meet on this issue they should ponder on this. It is either Nigeria belongs to us all or let there be no Nigeria.
It is either we have a real democracy with a clear delination and separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary or let the whole system and country go to blazes.
We are not interested in being slaves and we refuse to accept the yoke and bondage of dictatorship”.
The communique of the South South Governors reads in full:
An emergency meeting of the governors of the states of the South South geopolitical zone, held at the Bayelsa State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja on Sunday, January 13, 2019.
The meeting, called at the instance of the Governor of Bayelsa State, the Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, who is also Chairman of the South South Governors Forum, was attended by the Governors of Cross River State, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Delta States.
The meeting deliberated on the recent happenings at the Supreme Court involving the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen and resolved that the action against him constitutes a setback to the gains of the nation’s democratic experience of 20 years.
We note that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council, has ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of Judicial officers. Specifically, the NJC has the powers and clear procedures for investigating allegations, and recommending appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures against judicial officials as a matter of first instance before any further steps.
The judicial pronouncements in ` the cases of FGN Vs Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court (January 9, 2018) and Justice Ngajinwa Vs FGN 2017 at the CCT have given validation to the express provisions of the constitution on this issue.
We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the judiciary
We believe that the President, Muhammadu Buhari has a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend our democracy.
Therefore, we consider this step, which is directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region, as totally unacceptable as it is reflective of the South South story of endless marginalization and intimidation. The unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement is still very fresh.
We note that the unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law
It is a fact that this administration has a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders.
We expect President Buhari to know that democracy cannot survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution.
We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about INEC and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
We note further that the action undermines confidence not only in the judiciary but also the electoral process that has already commenced, in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication.
We affirm President Buhari should know that the continuous assault on critical institutions of state is a defining feature of a dictatorship, and that the President is obliged to live up to his word that he is a born-again democrat, as he assured Nigerians in 2015.
Based on the foregoing, we hereby call on the President:
1) To condemn without any equivocation, this assault on the CJN and the judiciary especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, to save the country from this embarrassment and global contempt.
2) We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called Court summon from the CCB and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters.
While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law.
We also decry the massive buildup of arms by APC leaders and members across the Niger Delta with the intent to cause mayhem and a general breakdown of law and order during the elections.
Dated this day January 13, 2019
The Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State
HE Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State
HE, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade, Governort of Cross River State
HE Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State
HE Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State.