Home News Acting CJN: I’m fit to head Nigeria’s judiciary

Acting CJN: I’m fit to head Nigeria’s judiciary

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The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad yesterday challenged the competence of the suit seeking to declare him as unfit to head the judiciary before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

Justice Mohammad, in a process filed before the court, further submitted that he was validly appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to take control of the judiciary, after the erstwhile CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen was charged and subsequently indicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

He also submitted that the CCT had, on January 25, directed Justice Onnoghen to step aside as the CJN, after which he was appointed as his replacement.

In a 39-paragraphed counter-affidavit that was deposed to by one Sadiq Ahmad, the Acting CJN argued that President Buhari, being the appointing authority, “has the power to remove or suspend any person occupying the office of the CJN.”

He argued that there was no need for President Buhari to consult either the National Judicial Council (NJC) or the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), before the former CJN could be suspended from office.

Justice Muhammad equally maintained that there was also no need for President Buhari to approach the Senate “for support by majority of two-third votes, before the erstwhile CJN could be suspended from office.”

“That the 5th Defendant (Buhari) followed due process of law in the appointment of the 3rd Defendant as the Acting CJN.

“That the 5th Defendant has extended the appointment of the 3rd Defendant as the Acting CJN, by another three months, upon the recommendation of the 1st Defendant (NJC).

“I know as a fact that there had not been any negative impact on the Nigerian Judiciary as there is renewed belief by the common man in the judiciary as his last hope,” the Acting CJN added.
He, however, prayed the court to dismiss the suit that was filed against him by the Board of Incorporated Trustees of Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation, an advocacy group.

The plaintiff had, in its suit marked ABJ/CS/420/2019, urged the court to declare that Justice Muhammad, who is currently the most senior jurist at the Supreme Court, is not capable to replace Onnoghen.

The group prayed the court to declare that the Acting CJN, having made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the Constitution, especially with regards to the “illegal” removal of the former CJN, is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.

It is the contention of the plaintiff that the Acting CJN conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

Cited as 1st to 7th Defendants in the suit were the NJC, the FJSC, the Acting CJN, the Federal Government, President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Senate.

Meanwhile, in the objection he filed against the suit, the Acting CJN told the court that the NJC had earlier exonerated him of any wrongdoing or misconduct.

He argued that the group lacked the locus standi to query decision the NJC delivered in his favour.

He, therefore, asked the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the suit which he said did not disclose any reasonable cause of action.

Similarly, President Buhari, through the office of the AGF, also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.

Buhari, who was represented by the Acting AGF and Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, argued that the suit constituted an abuse of court process.

Aside challenging the locus standi of the plaintiff to question his choice of Justice Muhammad as Onnoghen’s replacement, President Buhari described the suit as “an academic exercise”.

All the other defendants, apart from the Senate, also asked the court to dismiss the suit for want of merit.
The trial judge, Justice Iyang Ekwo has adjourned till Friday for hearing.

“There is need for expeditious determination of this case, being that it is a matter of public interest.
“All the preliminary objections will be taken together with the substantive matter,” the Judge held.

Source: New Telegraph NG

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