Justice Onnoghen: Agbakoba sues AGF Malami over CJN’s suspension

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Olisa Agbakoba

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr Olisa Agbakoba SAN, has sued the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari suspended Onnoghen as the CJN on January 25 over allegations of non-declaration of assets. The President immediately swore in Justice Tanko Muhammad to replace Onnoghen in an acting capacity.

But Agbakoba, in his fresh suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos, said Onnoghen’s suspension by the President was illegal and urged the court to overturn it.

The second defendant in the suit is the National Judicial Council, NJC.

Agbakoba stood on the grounds of the claim that judicial officers including the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, enjoy judicial immunity, stressing that the CJN have constitutionally guaranteed tenure of office that can only be interfered with by the administrative action of the NJC or the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.

He told the court that in the suspension of Onnoghen as the CJN, President Buhari did not adopt either of the procedures.

Newsworth recalls that the Senate had earlier filed a similar suit before the Supreme Court, contending that Onnoghen’s suspension by Buhari was not procedural as it did not have the input of the two-thirds majority of the Senate.

The Senate, however, withdrew the suit this week from the apex court, saying it would allow the NJC deal with the issues.

In an affidavit he filed in support of his suit, Agbakoba said, “I know that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides for the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and that the Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council or an address by the President supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.

The rights activist wants the court to determine “Whether by the combined interpretation of Section 153 (1)(i), Paragraph 21 (b) of the 3rd Schedule and Section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as (amended) the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen can be suspended or removed from office except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council or the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Agbakoba further prayed the court to make “A Declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 153 (1)(i), Paragraph 21 (b) of the 3rd Schedule and Section 292 (1)(a) (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as (amended) the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen cannot be suspended or removed from office except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council or the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”

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