The Real Reasons Saraki Couldn’t Proceed With Onnoghen Case At Supreme Court – SR



The Senate made an about-face on Tuesday February 5, citing trust “in
the ability of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to resolve the
issues”. However, SaharaReporters understands that this position was
mere public posturing.

Bukola Saraki, Senate
President, withdrew the Senate’s suit at the Supreme Court challenging
the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)
because it was clear he was going nowhere with the move, SaharaReporters

On January 28, three days after President Muhammadu
Buhari suspended Onnoghen as CJN, the Senate cancelled its sitting for
the day and instead filed a suit through Saraki before the Supreme Court
praying for, among others, an order reinstating Onnoghen as CJN.

the suit, marked SC.76/2019, the Senate asked the apex court to declare
the suspension of Onnoghen without support of two-thirds majority of
the Senate as a violation of section 292(1)(a)(i) of the Constitution.

also asked the apex court to issue an order restraining the two
defendants in the suit – the President and the Attorney-General of the
Federation Abubakar Malami – from continuing or repeating the violation
of the Constitution and disregarding the power of the Senate in respect
to the suspension of the CJN.

The Senate made an about-face on
Tuesday February 5, citing trust “in the ability of the National
Judicial Council (NJC) to resolve the issues”. However, SaharaReporters
understands that this position was mere public posturing.

formally took up the Onnoghen case on January 29 at a meeting from
which both the suspended CJN and his successor Tanko Muhammad recused
themselves. At the end of the meeting, the NJC gave both Muhammad and
Onnoghen seven days to respond to the various allegations against them —
meaning that if the Senate truly trusted the NJC in full, that was the
day to withdraw the suit instead of Tuesday.

But Saraki did
not have the backing of the National Assembly to go to court. To file
the suit, he would have needed a resolution of the Senate, which he
didn’t get. And it became clear this loophole would be exploited when
the Senate caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC), comprising 56
senators, applied to the Supreme Court to join in the Senate’s suit.

you can see, we already protested and we were asked to be joined in the
suit,” an APC senator who didn’t want to be named told SaharaReporters.
“The Senate never made a resolution to file that suit; and even if
there was an attempt at such resolution, it would have died a natural
death as we, who have the majority, are firmly with the president on

Also, public sentiment was beginning to count against
Saraki after members of the public were reminded of how he sacked the
Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Raliat Elelu-Habeeb, in 2009 during
his tenure as Governor of the state.

However, the Supreme
Court eventually reinstated Elelu-Habeeb, with Justice Mahmud Mohammed,
who delivered the judgement of a seven-member panel of justices, holding
that when all the relevant provisions of the constitution were read
together, it would become obvious that a state Governor could not remove
a Chief Judge from office without having recourse to the NJC.

is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers
of removal of a chief judge of a state by the Governor and House of
Assembly, the first port of call by the governor shall be the NJC,”
Mahmud had stated back then.

“From these very clear provisions of
the constitution which are very far from being ambiguous, the governors
of the states and the houses of assembly of the states cannot exercise
disciplinary control touching the removal of chief judges of states or
other judicial officers in the states.”

Incidentally, Onnoghen
was one of the six other justices, the rest being Christopher
Chukwumah-Eneh, Muhammad Muntaka-Coomassie, Olufunmilola Adekeye, Mary
Peter-Odili and Olukayode Ariwoola.

Interestingly, Saraki lost
the case against Elelu-Habeeb at all levels. When he sacked her, she
instituted a case against him at the Federal High Court, where she won.
But Saraki appealed to the Court of Appeal in Ilorin. In July 2010, the
Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Elelu-Habeeb, and Saraki again
appealed at the Supreme Court. On February 2012, the Supreme Court, as
expected, reinstated Elelu-Habeed.

Finally, Paul Erokoro (SAN),
counsel to the Senate, has been one of the numerous SANs leading the
lawyers’ revolt against Onnoghen’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal
(CCT). On the opening day of the matter at the CCT — way before the
Senate dreamed of filing a suit against the Nigerian Government at the
Supreme Court — Erokoro was one of at least 47 SANs who trooped to the
tribunal in defence of Onnoghen.

Meanwhile, the decision of the
NJC on Onnoghen and Muhammad is being expected soon, as the
seven-working-day deadline for their responses to the allegations
against them will elapse on Thursday.

Source:- Saharareporters



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