Governors of the South-South geo-political zone have described moves to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, today by the Federal Government as a demonstration of lack of respect for the people of the Niger Delta region, the nation’s judiciary and democracy by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governors stated this yesterday at the end of an emergency meeting held at the Bayelsa State Governor’s lodge, Maitama, Abuja.
In a communique read by Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, the forum condemned what it termed the flagrant disobedience of court orders by President Buhari-led administration, adding that the moves to arraign the CJN with barely a month to the 2019 polls is capable of heating the polity. The communique read in part:
“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 note that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council, NJC, 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.
“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 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 the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
Legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has described the proposed trial today of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged failure to fully declare his assets as “denigration of the country’s Judiciary and Constitution.”
He also noted the constitutional provision which stipulates that any infraction by judges must first be investigated and then resolved by the National Judicial Council, “to the exclusion of any other body or authority.”
Babalola, in a statement yesterday entitled, Proposed arraignment of the Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen: Again, I say two wrongs do not make a right, said the law had made clear the processes for the trial of judicial officers and as well their removal, hence the need to desist from “contempt and denigration of the judiciary.”
Continuing, he argued, “Again, the point must be made clear that the Constitution clearly provides for the procedure with which the CJN can be removed from office.
“Section 292 (1)(a)(i) and 292 (1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) addressed it.”
For the President General of Umbrella organisation of Ndigbo, the Ohananeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo yesterday warned the federal Government that they are heating up the polity by the needless action it’s taking against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
The President General said that legal opinion did not support the action and therefore should not have been contemplated at all.
In a statement he signed, Nwodo said Ohaneze has received, with shock and disappointment, the decision of the Federal government of Nigeria, acting through the Code of Conduct Bureau, to prosecute the Chief Justice Of Nigeria.
The President General noted that Legal opinion abound that the action is premature and ill conceived following an extant Court Of Appeal decision which interprets the procedure for prosecuting judicial officers.
He said: “This procedure has not been followed. The fact that the National Judicial Council has been ignored is not just illegal but suggests deliberate court shopping and a predetermined objective.
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association has reacted to the charges filed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The Federal Government will today, January 14, 2019, arraign the CJN before the Justice Danladi Yakubu-led Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on charges of failures to declare his assets as required by law and for operating Bank Domiciliary Foreign Currency Accounts.
The charges against Justice Onnoghen were filed and served on him last Friday at his official residence in Abuja preparatory to his appearance at the tribunal.
Reacting, NBA in a statement signed by its General Secretary Jonathan Gudu Taidi described the move against Onnoghen as an assault, intimidation and desecration of the judiciary, which must stop.
The body questioned government’s position to embark on this “anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC”
The statement read in part: “Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary Must Stop
Nigerians have witnessed again the targeted assault of the judiciary by agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) epitomized by today’s media trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”). According to media reports which have now been validated by the Statement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) that was released today an application was “filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges” and that the CCT “will commence the trial on Monday, 14th January 2019”. The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.
Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination? The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes! If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has advised the Federal Government to ensure that its plans to put on trial the nation’s chief judicial officer, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, does not cause chaos and that the due process was not compromised.
Saraki in a statement signed by his Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuf Olaniyonu, in Ilorin yesterday, noted that he believes that if the Government truly has genuine reason to put the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria on trial, it should ensure that every step in the process is transparent and the normal process as provided by the law is followed to the letter.
He said a situation where the petition which triggered the trial was submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Wednesday January 8 and by January 10 on Friday, the Chief Justice was presented with it for his reply only for the charges to be drafted that same day and filed in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), all this taking place within three days and commencement of trial fixed for Monday, January 14, already indicate unnecessary haste and short-circuiting of the process of fair hearing.
In its reaction, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, yesterday warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to plunge the nation into crisis saying his party is ready to resist him.
Secondus’ statement came on the heels of the upcoming arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over his failure to declare his assets.
The issue is currently generating heated debate in the polity.
Prince Secondus at a PDP presidential rally in Jos yesterday said the party would resist the president’s attempt to ‘attack’ the judiciary.
He said President Buhari was planning to rig the 2019 elections by first compromising the judiciary.
“Thirty days to the election, Buhari and APC want to destroy Nigeria. We (PDP) will not agree. If they want crisis, they will see it,” Secondus said.
No Party Can Win Election Fighting Itself, Wike Warns …Inaugurates Government VIP Lounge For FAAN
Wike said it was the quantum of individual votes from units, local governments and states that would determine victory for the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubukar, in 2023 and not rumour peddlers.
He spoke, yesterday, at the inauguration of the new Government VIP Lounge at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area, built by the Rivers State Government.
Wike said it was unfortunate that some politicians now based in Abuja, derive pleasure insinuating something against him to curry favour from the PDP presidential candidate.
“We are busy campaigning with our projects on how our party will win election in the state. Other people are busy in Abuja carrying rumours and gossips. We are busy here (Rivers) from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We’ll start Monday again, flagging off projects, commissioning projects that will sell our party.
“Every day in the newspapers, Wike did this, Wike did that, then, they will call the candidate, you see what I said about Wike today. Rent seekers. No job. Instead of you to do something that will make your party to win 2023 elections, you’re only busy, everyday Wike said this. When you heard from Wike I do not know. Maybe in your dream.
“You want to support the candidate, you’re not at home, and you’re in Abuja. Come home and campaign and work for the party. Stop this Abuja politics of carrying rumours to the candidate.”
Wike, who asserted that he was a practical and practicing politician, admonished that any party that wants to win election cannot be fighting itself.
“I think a party that wants to win election cannot, on their own, be causing problem for themselves.”
Wike pointed to how his administration has continued to flag-off and inaugurate projects that serve as evidence of fulfilled electoral promises, which have sustained the trust that the people have for the PDP in the state.
The governor expressed the belief that it is the services and projects that his administration has done that would sell the PDP to the electorate.
“We have said that whatever promise we have made, we are going to fulfil them before we leave office on May 29, 2023.
“And let me say; only one person can be a minister from the state. I would not be a minister. I am not a liability. Rivers State is an asset. If you don’t want to win election it is your business.
“I am not running for election. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. So, allow Rivers State to continue to do what they are doing by using our projects to campaign to our people.”
Wike explained that though the Port Harcourt International Airport is owned by the Federal Government, his administration decided to build the VIP lounge in order to offer Rivers people the best.
He assured that the Rivers State government would cater to the maintenance of the building so that it can serve the people for a long time.
Wike also commended the indigenous contractor that handled the project for the tasteful structural work that was accomplished.
“And let me commend the contractor. Of course, he is an indigenous contractor from Rivers State and of Port Harcourt Local Government Area. This is a good job well done. See the quality of what has been done. You can see that the difference is clear.
“We are willing to support our own. But you must also give us that assurance that when the job is given to you, you will complete it without any problem.”
Wike directed the Commissioner for Works to ensure the immediate arrest of a contractor handling a road project for the Rivers State Government in Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in Port Harcourt.
The governor accused the contractor of having collected 100percent of the project sum, but has failed to deliver the job.
In a brief, Rivers State Commissioner for Special Projects, Deinma Iyalla, said the edifice depicts the detribalised nature of Wike, and also serves to market the state positively.
According to him, the entire project comprises of a one storey building that has main lounge, bar, kitchen and administrative section on the ground floor.
He added, on the storey floor, there are Presidential Lounge, Governor’s Lounge and Executive Lounge.
Iyalla further added that there was a screening building that has installed screening and scanning machines with office space for FAAN, and a security house that would serve as waiting place for drivers.
Buhari Signs Bills On Electoral Act, Money Laundering, Terrorism, Others
Others are, Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, 1993 (Amendment) Act, 2019, for increased revenue; Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Amendment Acts of 2019 and 2021; Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Bill, 2022, which approves the seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of properties derived from unlawful activity.
The rest include, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) Bill, the first legislation focused on curbing anti-competition practices, establishing the FCCPC; Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Establishment Act, 2018; The Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act 2021; Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2019.
The bill facilitates the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property, and other instrumentalities of crime as well as the prosecution of offenders in criminal cases regardless of where in the world they might be;
The president also signed an Act establishing the Police Trust Fund, which will improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force (2019). “ Nigeria Police Act, 2020 – the first comprehensive reform of Police legislation since the Police Act of 1943.
He also signed the Repeal and Re-Enactment of the Companies & Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020, the first comprehensive reform since 1990; Not Too Young to Run Bill (2018), a Constitution Amendment Bill to reduce the age of eligibility for running for elective office in Nigeria; Nigerian Correctional Services Bill, 2019, the first comprehensive reform of prison legislation in close to five decades; Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019 – the first anti-piracy legislation in West Africa.
TCN Begs Electricity Workers To Suspend Planned Strike
The Managing Director, TCN, Dr Sule Abdulaziz, made the appeal in a letter to the workers, yesterday, following their threat to embark on strike to drive home their demands.
The workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had on August 15 directed its members to picket TCN offices nationwide on August 16, after which they would embark on strike on August 17.
The General Secretary, NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero, had in a statement, said the picketing was to protest the directive by the TCN board that all principal managers in acting capacity going to acting general manager must appear for a promotion interview.
Ajaero said the directive was in contravention of the workers’ conditions of service and career progression paths and alleged that it was unilaterally done without the relevant stakeholders.
Other issues raised include stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation from working in other areas in the power sector and non-payment of the December 2019 entitlement of ex-PHCN staff.
Abdulaziz said: “We are pleased to inform you that management has suspended the said proposed interview for those on acting appointment of assistant general managers and general managers while we conclude discussion with the board.
“On the other two issues: circular from the office of Head of Service on the stigmatisation of the defunct PHCN staff; payment of entitlement of ex-PHCN staff by market operator, the management has contacted the Honourable Minister of Power for his further action.
“In view of this development, we appeal to your union to stay in action; please accept the assurances of our highest regards.”
Also, the Federal Minister of State for Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, in a letter dated August 15, 2022, to the union, said that the ministry was committed to proffering solutions that would be acceptable to all parties concerned.
“May we appeal to your great union to allow us two weeks from the date of this letter to address the issues and come up with proposals toward acceptable resolution of all issues,” he said.
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