A tornado of reactions has followed the suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Among such reactions was the suspension of campaigns by the People’s Democratic Party, the purported shutdown of the National Assembly (NASS), as well as the threat of public demonstrations and boycott of the courts by lawyers.
However, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has described the reactions as superfluous, hasty and suspicious. MURIC submitted its opinion in a press statement issued on Saturday 26th January, 2019. The statement was signed by its director and founder, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“We frown at those over-reactions. Is this the first time a judge will be suspended? What did the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) do when ex-president Goodluck Jonathan suspended and eventually removed Justice Ayo Salami who was then president of the Court of Appeal?
“Isn’t it the norm for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend any judge who is facing investigation? Can the NBA explain the alleged inability of the NJC to meet for some time now due to postponements by the former CJN? Why would the CJN keep postponing meetings of the NJC? Was he trying to avoid suspension?
“We are all witnesses to astounding cases of miscarriage of justice in this country. Where was the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) when Kazeem Sani spent ten years (2006 – 2016) in Kirikiri without trial for stealing only one phone? 22 years old Rabiu Sani was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment in September 2016 by a Kano High Court for stealing a pair of slippers. Where was the NBA?
“Laywet Kelap, 40, was jailed 2 years in Pankshin, Plateau State in July 2017 for stealing only one goat. What did any political party do to assist him? An Ibadan court sentenced four men to death in March 2017 for stealing 4 phones. We did not hear even a whimper from any political party. In Lagos, a JSS student was docked in October 2016 for stealing his classmate’s N200 and Sylvester Livinus was jailed 4 months in December 2016 for stealing ten fishes.
“These cases were found to be highhanded and arbitrary by ordinary Nigerians. No senior lawyer spoke against these astounding judicial pronouncements. Was it because the suspects were sons of nobodys? Was the NASS on indefinite sabbatical when those erratic judgements were delivered? Must heaven now fall because a most senior colleague has been suspended? Should anybody be above the law even if he is the chief justice? We are living in strange times indeed.
“Or is it the fear of the possibility of the booty being traced to some people? Why is the NBA ignoring the allegation of corruption and the CJN’s strange admission that those cash lodgements were actually made but he ‘forgot’ to mention them. We are shocked to our marrows. It is tyranny of the judiciary and hypocrisy of the highest order to turn your eyes away from the CJN’s misdeeds and start harassing the executive. The Nigerian people are saying no to judicial intimidation.
“PDP’s threat to suspend campaigns because a CJN was suspended over allegations of non-declaration of assets and suspicious cash lodgements raises eyebrows. This is because the party itself was flushed out by Nigerians because its leadership engaged in massive corruption. The last time we checked, this same party apologized to Nigerians and vowed to change its ways. Is closing its eyes to suspicious cash payments into a judge’s bank account the best way to change its ways? Isn’t the leopard back in its true colours?
“By the way, was PDP in a kind of ‘understanding’ with the former CJN? Is there something between the political party and the man in the eye of the storm? We recall that PDP has repeatedly and aggressively accused the ruling party and Nigeria’s electoral body of plots to rig the election. Was PDP actually preparing the ground for a conspiratorial electoral litigation after the 2019 polls relying on the ‘understanding’? Is the PDP suspending its presidential campaigns because that hope or ‘understanding’ has been dashed?
“Apart from the late Gani Fawehinmi, we are not aware of any senior lawyer who showed sympathy to the cause of any poor man who has a case in a Nigerian court. We have not seen the high caliber lawyers caring for poor Nigerians who received severe punishments for trivial offences.
“MURIC contends that Nigeria will not become an egalitarian, decent and sane society until the son of a nobody is certain of getting redress when he is oppressed by the rich and powerful in society. Nigeria will not become a just society until the rich and powerful are punished the same way that the poor masses are made to face the full wrath of the law.
“We, therefore, urge the NBA to desist from creating an oligarchy of the judiciary. It will never work. Our learned men should stop seeing Nigeria as an animal farm where the rich are sacred cows and judges are above the law. We must put an end to dictatorship of the judiciary. We appeal to all men of goodwill to intervene before it is too late. We charge the poor masses to rise to the defense of their government. The general citizenry who are the real victims of corruption and the dictatorship of the judiciary must not allow a judicial onslaught on democracy”.