A former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen has called on the country’s judges not to be discouraged by his removal from office by the executive arm (headed by President Buhari) based on rumours that he met with former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar.
Mr Onnoghen, at a book launch in the nation’s capital, Abuja said his removal from office were based on rumours that he had met with the former Nigerian vice-president and was never given the chance to defend himself over allegations he freed high-profile crminals.
Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari had in 2019, just weeks to the presidential election, suspended Onnoghen as CJN based on a controversial order issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He was later convicted by the tribunal for breaching the code of conduct for public officers and banned him from holding public office for 10 years. The National Judicial Council (NJC) had also recommended his compulsory retirement.
The former Chief Justice during the launch of the book written by Ogwu Onoja, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said he was never confronted with any of the allegations before being suspended.
“There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. But as I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, some high-profile criminals, whereas I ceased to be a high court judge as far back as 1978,” the former CJN said.
“In supreme court, I did not sit alone, we sat in panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given the opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen, but for all Nigerians who swore to guide and protect the constitution of the federal republic.
“As I have said severally, judicial officers must be courageous. And I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me in the hand of the executive arm of the government.”
He called on judges in the country to always insist on justice because “Nigeria is doomed” without such courage.
“Let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicised, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law.
“We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour.”