The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has rejected the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), describing it as a ‘slide into anarchy.’
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday, replacing him with Tanko Mohammed.
But in a statement issued after the suspension, Paul Usoro, president of the NBA, said Buhari’s action cannot stand.
He wrote: “We are told that this was pursuant to an Ex-Parte Order that was issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.
“The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally rejects and condemns this attempted coup against the Nigerian Judiciary and evident suspension of the Nigerian Constitution by the Executive arm of the Federal Government. The action of the Executive portends a slide into anarchy and complete deconstruction of the Rule of Law and due process.
“It amounts to an absolute breach of the Constitution and the usurpation of the powers of the Senate and the Nigerian Judicial Council. 3. It is unfortunate that the Executive Branch of Government purports to suspend the CJN on the basis of an alleged ex-parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal – the same Tribunal that, to the knowledge of the Executive, had, only the previous day, Tuesday, 22 January 2019 adjourned its proceedings to Monday, 28 January 2019 and has before it a Motion on Notice that is yet to be argued, seeking the same reliefs as were contained in the purported ex-parte application, to wit, the suspension of the CJN, amongst others.”
The lawyers asked the federal government to avert the looming constitutional crisis precipitated by its “ill-advised action”, and called on the national assembly to assert its constitutional powers over the matter.