The United States has reacted to the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday, citing an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
In a statement on Saturday, the US embassy in Nigeria said it had taken note of widespread criticisms that the suspension is illegal.
“The Embassy of the United States is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections,” the statement read.
“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.
“We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process.”
This comes as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, announced that it will be suspending its 2019 campaigns for 72-hours, to protest against the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
Recall that, President Muhammadu Buhari controversially suspended Onnoghen from Office, on Friday. He said that he was acting on a court order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
The President then swore-in another Supreme Court Justice, Tanko Mohammed, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the new Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Saturday, performed his first official assignment, when he swear in members of the Election Petition Tribunals, for the 2019 general elections.
He came in a little over 2pm, supported only by Justice Duada Sidi Bage, as other Justices of the Supreme Court stayed away.
In another development, president Buhari’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, says the federal government will not accept foreign interference in the nation’s affairs.
Shehu said this hours after the US reacted to the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement said the action of Buhari could have effect on the general election.
But Shehu said the Buhari administration is against actions capable of creating apprehension, distrust among citizens or undermining the transparency and acceptability of outcomes of the nation’s electoral process.
“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all,” he said.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections.”
Shehu said the federal government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections and a peaceful Nigeria.
He added that the government had ensured the independence of all organs, institutions and arms of government to “perform their functions in a manner that is transparent, and not lacking in integrity whether institutionally or by persons within such institutions or organs.’’
“Although the question of foreign interference, whether state sponsored, promoted or otherwise has dominated recent elections and outcomes globally, the federal government assures citizens and the global community that it will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process,’’ he said.
He reiterated the readiness of the nation’s security forces to confront any plan or attempt to interfere with or disrupt the process whether by “elements within or from outside the country”.
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