Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen has revealed why he was relieved of his position by the President Muhammadu Buhari led government.
Naija News recalls that Onnoghen was ousted from office by the Buhari administration in 2019 unceremoniously.
Speaking in Abuja on Friday, March 19 at a book launch titled ‘Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents’, authored by a renowned legal luminary, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, the former CJN said his removal from office was due to rumoured reports from the executives that he had a conversation with Atiku Abubakar, former vice president of Nigeria.
Onnoghen explained that the rumour indeed spread fast and thick, alleging he met with the former VP in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, a development coming a few days to the 2019 general elections.
The former CJN said he decided to pay a deaf ear to the rumours because he never travelled to Dubai or held any meeting with anybody, including Atiku as claimed in the rumours.
Onnoghen, however, said he was surprised that the Buhari government despite all the machinery at its disposal to investigate the allegation, never did so but opted to unlawfully remove him from office.
According to him, the situation became messy when all of a sudden, his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was arranged, even when he had not been invited or accused of any wrongdoing. He also lamented that democracy was dead in Nigeria without courageous judges.
“Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I seized to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978,” Onnoghen noted.
He added: “In Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. we sit in the panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given the opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen but for all Nigerians who had sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To say the least, the period of my ordeal was the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary. As I have severally, Judicial officers must be courageous. And I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me in the hand of the Executive arm of the government.”
“Emerging Nigerian judges should not go the direction of injustice because, without courageous judges and justice, Nigeria is doomed. Here, let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicized, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law. We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour.
“Truth stands, crush it, it will stand because it is truth,” Onnoghen reiterated.