The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has set up a three-member committee to review the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The NBA made this known in a communique released to highlight its resolutions after a meeting of its National Executive Council members on Monday.
The NBA also reiterated its decision to boycott the courts for two days.
The meeting was called in reaction to Friday’s suspension of Mr Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president cited an ex-parte order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal asking him to suspend the CJN.
His actions have since drawn condemnations
According to the NBA, a number of resolutions were made, with the setting up of the three-member committee and the planned boycott topping the list.
A member of the committee, Wale Olanikpekun, leads the team of lawyers defending the suspended CJN at the tribunal.
The NBA’s resolutions read in part:
“That the committee of 3 (three) made up of Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR SAN, Mr Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON SAN and the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN that was set up by the NBA President is hereby ratified and is mandated to liaise with the NBA members that are serving in different positions of authority in government with a view to resolving the afore-specified issues relating to the Chief Justice of the Federation. The Committee shall through the President report to the NBA periodically starting from the week of 03 February 2019.
“That to register its complete disapproval over the actions of the Executive arm of the FGN as it relates to the CJN, the NBA shall proceed on a symbolic boycott of all courts by its members for 2 days on Tuesday and Wednesday, 29th and 30th January 2019.
“The NBA President is mandated to take such further steps thereafter as may be required to ensure that FGN reverses its various actions in relation to the CJN including but not limited to calling for further and extended boycotts of courts by NBA members.
“NEC ratifies and adopts all the Statements that have been issued by the NBA President since the beginning of Chief Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON’s impasse on or about 09 January 2019, copies of which Statements are attached hereto. NEC further endorses and ratifies all the interviews that the NBA President has granted on this issue to various media organisations.
“That the positions of the NBA as contained in the President’s said Statements are predicated upon and governed by the immutable principles of the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, and the need to follow due process at all times in matters relating to the appointment, service, tenure and discipline of judicial officers. These principles are enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and derive from the overriding imperatives of the Rule of Law.”
Assault On Judiciary
The NBA condemned in strong terms, what it describes as the assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by the Executive arm of Government.
“That, for the avoidance of doubt, the NBA unequivocally deplores and condemns the assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by the Executive arm of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) as epitomised by the events of the last several weeks relating to Onnoghen CJN which incidents gave no thought or consideration for due process and the provisions of the Constitution.
“That the NBA calls on the FGN to reverse forthwith all the actions taken so far by the Executive arm of the FGN against Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON and restore to him and accord him the dignity and appurtenances of his office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
The NBA described Mr Onnoghen’s suspension as outright illegality.
It said, if allowed, the precedent would destroy Nigeria’s democracy, undermine the role of the judiciary, the principles of separation of powers, and the place of the Nigerian constitution.
The NBA also demanded an action from the National Assembly, to assert its powers regarding the suspension of Mr Onnoghen.
“That the NBA calls on the National Assembly to take appropriate steps and actions to protect the powers of the National Assembly under the constitution as it relates to the removal, whether temporarily or permanently, of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
The National Assembly has since taken the matter to the Supreme Court seeking its interpretation over the contoversy.
Meanwhile, the communique also listed the lawyers at the NEC meeting:
Paul Usoro, SAN, President
Jonathan Gunu Taidi, General Secretary
Stanley Chidozie Imo , 1st Vice president
Dr. (Mrs) Foluke O. Dada. 2nd Vice president
Theophilus Terhile Igba. 3rd Vice President
Olagbegi-Oloba Victoria Banke. Treasurer
Elias Emeka Anosike, Financial Secretary
Nnamdi Innocent Eze, Legal Adviser
Olukunle O. Edun, Publicity Secretary
Joshua Enemali Usman, Weifare Secretary
Ewenode Onoriode William, 1st Assistant Secretery
Chinyere Obasi, 2nd Assistant Secretary
Iniøbong Irene Peppie and Assistant Financial Secretary.