Following turbulence that has trailed his tenure and his unceremonious suspension from his exalted office, Justice Walter Onnoghen may have been recommended for retirement by the national Judicial commission, NJC. Justice Tanko Mohammed, however, may have been exhonorated from allegations of subverting the rule of Law by offering himself to be sworn in as the new acting chief Justice without due process. This Soji Oye, the Director of Media Information of the commission has hinted.
The NJC handles issues of Judicial discipline. In the wake of the Onnoghen Saga, Justice Umaru Abdullahi sat as the interim chairman. Ordinarily, the CJ heads the NJC but Onnoghen is under suspension and the Acting Cj was not recommended by the commission.
The Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, has petitioned the NJC listing a catalogue of sins of the suspended CJ, and urging dismissal of the supreme Jurist. Petitions were also written against Justice Tanko Mohamed by some Lawyers. The NJC had requested the two justices to forward their defense within a specified time.
After deliberating on the issues, NJC may have taken the face saving step of retiring Onnoghen.
The decision may have been passed on to the presidency, but it is not clear whether the presidency is predisposed to follow due process on the Issue or fire him directly.
According to the constitution, two third majority of the senate is required to remove him and recommend his retirement to the President. But it appears the NJC may have directly sent the recommendations to the presidency instead of the senate.
According to section 292(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before the age of his retirement except in the following circumstances. (a). in the case of (i). Chief justice of Nigeria…by the president acting on an address supported by two thirds majority of the senate”.
Onnoghen is currently undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct tribunal, CCT for false asset declaration. But the CCT has no powers to try him. If they find him guilty they can only recommend him for trial in a proper court.
This Magazine had previously reported that the Commission may take the option of retiring both Tanko and Onnoghen to clean the Aegean stable when the tension generated by the saga was at its peak.