Southern, M'Belt leaders want due process on Onnoghen


The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the prosecution of Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and resort to due process.It said this while reacting to a move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to question Mr. Yinka Odumakin, a spokesman for the forum, and Femi Fani-Kayode, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, over online posts suggesting operatives of the commission had carried out a raid at the CJN’s residence.

“The SMBLF is a responsible organisation, made of prominent statesmen of Nigeria that have served and are still serving and contributing immensely to our great country, Nigeria. The information and statement about the siege on the neighborhood of the CJN originated from the CJN’s residence, while this body was in a meeting in Abuja.

“We could not have manufactured such a statement if the alarm was not raised from the house of the CJN. It is therefore not fake news. This body only acted promptly to forestall any untoward incidence of arrest or embarrassment on the person of the CIN,” said the forum in a statement yesterday.

SMBLF said: “We strongly advise the EFCC not to do anything by way of carrying out its threat of arrest and detention of former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and Mr. Yinka Odumakin, on account of this statement which has attracted denials. Arrests and detention of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Mr. Yinka Odumakin on account of this incident can only exacerbate the already tensed situation in the polity.“We want to further caution that any attempt to intimidate and harass any of our members concerning this issue or in any other guise would be stoutly resisted.”

SMBLF said the directive by the Federal Government to freeze Onnoghen’s bank accounts, was an “inglorious exercise” which is “completely unnecessary.” It described the move as “a further deliberate attempt to harass and embarrass the high office of the CJN.”

The forum asked: “How do we reconcile the action of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice with the statement of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that the president was not aware of the action of the CCT until the evening of Saturday, January 12, 2019, when it was mentioned to him?

“Mr. Vice President went on to defend the ominous silence of Mr. President on the trial of the CJN under the guise of non-interference in the operations of anti-graft institutions in the discharge of their duties. “We respectfully appeal to Mr. President to direct the Attorney General to stop the prosecution of the CJN at the CCT and request them to follow the due process because no one is above the law of the land.”

Besides, it was reported late yesterday that Fani-Kayode and Odumakin have instituted a suit at a Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an order “restraining the respondents (EFCC and police), their privies, their agents from inviting, detaining or arresting the applicants for any reason without following due process.” The duo further sought an order that the “respondents pay the sum of N20,000,000 as damages for the unlawful threat to arrest the applicants.”

This was as a Federal High Court, Abuja, adjourned till January 28 suits seeking to stop the Federal Government from arraigning the CJN.Justice Evelyn Maha cited irregular service of court processes on the respondents. She further directed that respondents be properly served and the dates and time of such services be disclosed in a certificate.She insisted that the initial order made against the respondents over plans to arraign the CJN at the CCT still subsists.

The CJN was to be arraigned at the CCT on Monday over alleged non-declaration of assets. But two groups, Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative and the Incorporated Trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management, approached the High Court, seeking to restrain the Federal Government from proceeding. Ruling on the two ex-parte applications, Maha ordered that parties maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the suits and adjourned the matter till yesterday for hearing on the motions.

At the resumed sitting yesterday however, counsel to the plaintiff,Rafiu Lawal-Rabana, informed the court that the business of the day was the hearing on the motion on notice.He disclosed that all the respondents to the suit have been served with the processes except the senate president. He therefore prayed the court for a short adjournment to ensure that the lawmaker is served.

The judge consequently asked Dr. Garba Tetengi, who announced appearance for the fourth respondent (National Judicial Council) and the only respondent who was in court whether he was served.The counsel confirmed that he had been served with the processes. He also stated that he had no objection to the request for a short adjournment. Maha held that the proof of service was not accompanied with a certificate itemising each of the processes served on each of the respondents.

She then ordered the counsel to the plaintiffs to file a proper proof of service or regularise the service and ensure that the senate president was served.Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai meanwhile has berated governors of the southsouth geopolitical zone over their alleged bias on the CJN’s ordeal.

El-Rufai, who urged the CJN to resign to protect the institution he represents, said during a media interview: “What is worrying to me is that all of a sudden we have no regard for institutions; political parties are getting involved in issuing statements. My colleagues, governors that ought to know better, are issuing statements based on where the CJN comes from.

“This attitude has the capacity to destroy the country. If Babachir Lawal, as SGF, was being investigated, and all the facts about his conducts, and northeast governors met and issued a statement saying, ‘Yes, he has done that but he is from the northeast and should be left to go,’ where will Nigeria be?

“If we continue to apply these standards, what if southwest governors met and said, ‘Well, ex-minister, Kemi Adeosun, made a mistake and presented a fake certificate, but she is from the southwest, so she is immune from being asked to resign,’ what will Nigeria be like?”The governor added: “Institutions should be allowed to work and we should stand up to protect the integrity of institutions. Saying that the president doesn’t know, I think it is a compliment to the president. It shows that he does not interfere with institutions. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. I think we should stand up for that. We should cease being ethnic and religious, otherwise this country will not go anywhere.”

But Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike toed a different line, blaming Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi for Onnoghen’s travail.He made the allegation during a PDP campaign rally in Eleme yesterday.“At that meeting in Abuja, last Monday, Amaechi confessed that he is the person behind the illegal crisis facing the CJN. He bragged that he would destroy the CJN the way he brought former President Goodluck Jonathan down. He wants to destroy the nation’s judiciary. This particular evil will finally consume Amaechi,” Wike said.

He recalled that the Rivers State judiciary was closed down for nearly two years when Amaechi was governor. He wondered why the minister has a penchant for attacking the judiciary, despite being a beneficiary of the institution’s vibrancy.It is preposterous for the minister who served as Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly for eight years and later as governor under the PDP, to turn around and describe the party as a gathering of thieves, Wike said.Efforts to reach the minister’s media aides before press time failed. A close political associate of the minister, Mr. Tonye Princewill, however dismissed the governor’s allegation as unsubstantiated.


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