ABUJA – Governors of the South-South geo-political zone has described moves to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, today by the federal government as a demonstration of lack of respect for the people of the Niger Delta region, the nation’s judiciary and democracy by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governors stated this Sunday at the end of an emergency meeting held at the Bayelsa state Governor’s lodge, Maitama, Abuja.
In a communique read by chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson, the forum condemned what it termed the flagrant disobedience of court orders by President Buhari-led administration, adding that the move to arraign the CJN with barely a month to the 2019 polls is capable of heating the polity.
The communique read in part: “We note that the unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law.
“It is a fact that this administration has a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders.
“We expect President Buhari to know that democracy cannot survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution.
“We note that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council, NJC, has ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of Judicial officers.
“Specifically, the NJC has the powers and clear procedures for investigating allegations, and recommending appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures against judicial officials as a matter of first instance before any further steps.
“The judicial pronouncements in the cases of FGN Vs Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court (January 9, 2018) and Justice Ngajinwa Vs FGN 2017 at the CCT have given validation to the express provisions of the constitution on this issue.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the judiciary
“We believe that the President, Muhammadu Buhari has a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend our democracy.
“we consider this step, which is directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region, as totally unacceptable as it is reflective of the South South story of endless marginalization and intimidation.
“The unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement is still very fresh.
“We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
“We note further that the action undermines confidence not only in the judiciary but also the electoral process that has already commenced, in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication.
“We affirm President Buhari should know that the continuous assault on critical institutions of state is a defining feature of a dictatorship, and that the President is obliged to live up to his word that he is a born-again democrat, as he assured Nigerians in 2015.
The governors therefore “condemn without any equivocation, this assault on the CJN and the judiciary especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, to save the country from this embarrassment and global contempt.”
They also urged Onnoghen ” to ignore this so-called Court summon from the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters.”
They further decried what they described as “the massive buildup of arms by All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders and members across the Niger Delta with the intent to cause mayhem and a general breakdown of law and order during the elections.”
Present at the meeting were Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta states.
The only governor of the zone who was not present or represented is the governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki.