Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, on Sunday said the attempt by the Federal Government to force the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen to resign or be removed was unacceptable.
Ortom described the action of the federal government against the CJN as not only a deliberate ploy to gag the judiciary but harassment to the person of Justice Onnoghen.
In a statement signed his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase and made available to our correspondent in Makurdi, the governor added, “We join Nigerians of good conscience to condemn and reject the attempt by Federal Government to force the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen to resign or be removed.
“We consider the move as a deliberate ploy to intimidate and gag the judiciary. It is also in gross violation of the principle of separation of powers.
“The manner in which the Federal Government is plotting to remove the CJN by rushing charges against him to the Code of Conduct Tribunal and leaking the charges to the press at a weekend is suspicious, smacks of desperation and lacks regard for due process.”
Ortom therefore urged all Nigerians to resist what he called the unwarranted assault on the country’s judiciary and save democracy from the hands of its enemies.
He also noted that it was now clear that after unsuccessful attempts to intimidate the National Assembly, the same undemocratic forces have turned their attacks on the Judiciary, adding that, “this is a clarion call on men and women of goodwill to condemn the move aimed at suppressing the judicial arm of government.”
The governor contended that due process and the rule of law must be seen to be in operation in the country as he posited that if Justice Onnoghen is guilty of the charges filed against him, it was the duty of the courts to determine not the federal government or its agents.
“The Federal Government has apparently chosen to ignore the provisions of extant laws and judicial process which hold that either the National Judicial Council or the National Assembly must play a role in the removal of the CJN. The President is expected to act on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.
“The decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration to flout this well established procedure further reveals their agenda to weaken the Nigeria’s democratic institutions ahead of this year’s general election.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the principle of separation of powers and pave way for the rule of law, so as not to throw the country into constitutional crisis,” Ortom maintained.