CJN Onnoghen’s Suspension: Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry Issues Statement

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019 5.00PM / Foreign Affairs Ministry, Abuja



The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria has issued an 8-point statement reacting to the concerns raised by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union foreign missions in the country, over the recent suspension of the Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Walter Onnoghen.

 

Read below the full statement signed by Mr Victor Edokpan the Spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. 

  1. The Federal Government of Nigeria notes with deep concern statements made by representatives of foreign Governments and international Organizations resident in Nigeria, notably the Embassy of the United States of America, the High Commission of the United Kingdom as well as the European Union Election Observer Mission, regarding the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), which demonstrate serious and unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Nigeria. 
  2. The various statements, especially of those referred to above, appear prejudicial and signify alignment with the opposition and endorsement of its position that the ruling party, and by extension by the Federal Government of Nigeria, is working on rigging the forthcoming elections in Nigeria. These statements also portend tolerance for corrupt acts and downplay the anticorruption crusade of the Buhari Administration, knowing fully that suspended CJN had not denied the charges against him and that probity requires of him to aside while the case is under scrutiny. 
  3. It is pertinent to underscore the unfortunate fact that statements, as referred above, are inimical to the wellbeing and development of Nigeria, given their nuisance value of promoting sectional and religious divide in the country, anarchy and retrogression. Now, more than any other time, Nigeria to realize her potential and sustainably provide the leadership expected of her. 
  4. His Excellency Muhammad BUHARI had consistently demonstrated respect for the rule of law as a presidential candidate and as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and would engage in nothing to the contrary. He also remains a man of integrity, who has severally pledged free and fair elections. It is therefore absurd to presume that suspension of the CJN is geared towards rigging the forthcoming elections in favor of the ruling party. 
  5. For the avoidance of doubt, be it known that on three occasions that Mr. President went to court, as a presidential candidate and lost his case, in 2013, 2011 and 2007, the presiding judges at the Supreme Court were all northerners and Muslims: Justice Muhammad Lawal Uwais, Idris Lebo Kutigi and Dahiru Mustapha respectively. In fact, in one instance, the presiding judge at the Appeal Court was from Katsina State and the Presidents former classmate, yet, he lost the case. The minority judgments in his favor were given by two judges, both of them southerners and Christians: Justices George Adesola Oguntade and Sylvanus Nsofor. 
  6. Resident Embassies and International Organizations invited to observe the forthcoming elections must therefore be wary of being drawn into the camp of the opposition, otherwise their neutrality, which is the hallmark of election observers becomes questionable. It is indeed unfortunate that foreign missions would align with the opposition and seek to negatively interpret actions by the Federal Government, no matter their positive basis and intention. Had the Federal Government been high- handed, would the opposition have been able to express its views, even to the point of pouring invectives on Mr. President? How best can the corruption in the judiciary, which has enormously undermined the rights of the common man and made justice available only to the highest bidder, be best tackled than by ensuring that known cases are fundamentally tackled? Where is the rule of law, if justice is applied selectively? 
  7. Pertinent questions that the opposition and their sympathizers must reflect upon are: How has the action of Mr President undermined the resolve for free and fair election? In what ways does it undermine the independence of the Judiciary, except in the minds of the opposition and its cohorts? What right has a representative of a foreign government to license an already volatile situation on the grounds that her Government has invested heavily in the elections? It is insulting for any foreign representative to claim the right to interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs, based on the premise that its government has invested heavily in the action. Nigeria has invested enormously, over the years, in election process of many African countries, and will continue to do so without interfering in their internal affairs. Interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs under any guise will therefore not be accepted. 
  8. Representatives of foreign Governments and Organizations are therefore advised to tread with caution and desist from using the utterances and actions of opposition organizations and individuals as a vehicle to interfere in Nigeria’s internal affairs.
  9. Embassies and organizations accredited to Nigeria should desist from actions and utterances that can only create political, sectional and religious crises and divides. 

 

George Ehidiamen Edokpa 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

Abuja


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