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ABUJA—The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of deliberately intimidating judges in a bid to emasculate the judiciary before the 2019 general elections.

This is even as Senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, advised the Federal Government to ensure that its plans to put on trial the CJN, Walter Onnoghen does not cause chaos in the judicial system and that due process was not compromised. The NBA in a statement signed by its National President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, decried what it described as a “pattern of consistent assault” on both the Judiciary and the Legislature by agencies of the Federal Government. From left: Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade; Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State; Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom, addressing pressmen on planned arraignment of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen in Abuja. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

While condemning plans by government to arraign the CJN before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, over alleged failure to declare his assets, the NBA warned that continuing attacks on the justice sector must stop. It wondered why the federal government decided to deviate from the laid down and explicit provisions of the law as expounded in the case of Nganjiwa v FRN, by slamming a criminal charge against the CJN without recourse to the National Judicial Council, NJC. The statement read: “The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately. “In Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. “Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him. ‘’As the court pointed out, these requirements of the law are anchored on the overriding principles of separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and on the need to preserve, promote and protect  the independence of the judiciary.

“Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government. “In Nganjiwa v FRN (supra), the Court of Appeal made reference to Rule 3 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of February 2016 (“Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”) and held that the said Rule 3 “makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the  Law.

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Henry Ojelu