NJC queries Onnoghen, Muhammad, gives them 7 days to respond to petitions
The National Judicial Council has issued letters of query to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen; and the Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Mohammed, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was learnt that the two judges were given seven days to respond to the queries.
Onnoghen was asked to respond to allegations leveled against him, especially why he failed to declare all his assets, as stipulated by law.
The Acting CJN, Mohammed, was also asked to explain why he allowed himself to be sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari without the recommendation of the Council, as stipulated by the Constitution.
If the two judges are punished with dismissal, the third most senior Supreme Court Judge, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour of Lagos State, will replace them.
Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; and Acting CJN Tanko Mohammed, did not attend the meeting.
A former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umar Abdullahi, was elected to preside over the meeting as an interim chairman.
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday based on an ex parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which ordered him to step aside.
The President swore in Mohammed in his place in acting capacity.
The action has drawn criticisms from the Nigerian Bar Association and opposition parties which accused Buhari of eroding the independence of the judiciary.
The NJC also referred a petition against the CCT chairman, Danladi Umar, to the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
According to a press release by the NJC’s Director (Information), Soji Oye, the council took the decisions after considering four petitions filed at its secretariat.
The statement explained that the petition against Onnoghen was by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education; while two petitions against Acting CJN Mohammed came from Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative; and also from Olisa Agbakoba, SAN.
It added that the petition against Umar was authored by the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
The statement added, “Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission, 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. Mohammed, 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. Mohammed, 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.”