The National Judicial Council (NJC) had on Tuesday weighed in on the crisis rocking the Judiciary.
The NJC held emergency meeting in Abuja, where it issued suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen and Acting CJN Tanko Muhammad a seven-day deadline to respond to seven petitions pending against them.
Justice Onnoghen is accused of violating the code of conduct for public officers by failing to disclose some of his assets.
On the other hand, Justice Muhammad is alleged to have engaged in misconduct in allowing himself to be sworn in in a manner that breached law, tradition and constitutional provisions.
NJC’s spokesman Soji Oye disclosed in a statement that the council also elected to refer the petition against Code of Conduct (CCT) Chairman Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
Both Justice Onnoghen and Justice Muhammad were not at the meeting, which was chaired by retired Court of Appeal President Umaru Abdullahi.
The case against Umar has to do with his alleged abuse of judicial authority or breach of constitutional provisions by the orders he made in the course of proceedings in the charge against the suspended CJN.
The CCT had rejected to be bound by High Courts orders directing it to stay proceedings.
In addition to this, Umar is also being questioned over the ex-parte order he made on which President Muhammadu Buhari claimed to have relied in suspended Onnoghen and inaugurating Justice Muhammad in acting capacity.
The NJC chose to cut the usual 14 days response time to seven, in view of the weighty issues involved in the petitions.
Sequel to this, the NJC is to reconvene on February 11.
Meanwhile, the NJC has received applause from lawyers across the nation for its timely intervention.
“I’m happy with the development. NJC and the Judiciary will work together to strengthen our judicial system,” rights activist and lawyer Monday Ubani said.
The statement reads: “The National Judicial Council held an Emergency Meeting today and considered four (4) petitions filed at its Secretariat. The petitions are:
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education;
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative;
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, OON; and
“Petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
“Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.
“In line with its procedure, Council also forwarded the petitions against Hon. Justices W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON and I. T. Muhammad, CFR to them for their responses.
“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from fourteen (14) to seven (7) working days for the Hon. Justices to respond.
“Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON and Hon. Mr. Justice I.T. Muhammad, CFR recused themselves from the meeting. Consequently, Council elected Hon. Mr. Justice Umaru Abdullahi, CON, former President of the Court of Appeal, as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting.