The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego Garcia-Sayán, has berated President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
He said the President’s action undermines international human rights standards on independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.
It will be recalled that Onnoghen was suspended on January 25, 2019 and was replaced by Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad. The President claimed to have acted based on a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal to replace the CJN.
The National Judicial Council has also issued a fresh query to Onnoghen following a petition sent to it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
But speaking through a statement released in Geneva, Garcia-Sayan stated that any decision to suspend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court.
The Rapporteur stresses that the dismissal of judges in such manner negates the ideals of an independent judiciary.
“International human rights standards provide that judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence,” the former judge continued.
“Any decision to suspend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court. The dismissal of judges without following procedures lay down by the law and without effective judicial protection being available to contest the dismissal is incompatible with the independence of the judiciary.”
Citing the failure of the CCT to stay proceedings despite court directives, Garcia-Sayan added that all parties should respect court orders in the interest of a functional judiciary.