Acting CJN Mohammed Inaugurates Election Petitions Tribunal, Flanked By Only One SC Justice

The Oasis Reporters

January 26, 2019

Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, now on suspension.

Moving very swiftly to do the job that the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen would have done before he was abruptly shoved aside, the acting Chief Justice, Tanko Mohammed has Inaugurated the Elections Petitions Tribunal, Saturday January 26, 2019.

There was no conviviality, since only one Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sidi Dauda Bage joined his fellow northerner, the Acting Chief Justice at the Supreme Court Complex, Court Podium, Abuja. The rest Justices simply stayed away from the inauguration.

Observers say this was likely to be a form of solidarity with Chief Justice Onnoghen over the unusual surprise announcement suspending him by the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for reelection mid February.

Crisis has engulfed the highest echelon of the nation’s judiciary following the corruption charges against the embattled CJN Walter Onnoghen over his alleged non-declaration of assets and his subsequent suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday. A point used against him by President Muhammadu Buhari, although analysts believe that the strategic suspension was timed to prevent Walter Onnoghen from constituting the Tribunals with judges that may not see things the way of some vested interests in the upcoming elections.

However, while the Acting CJN, Mohammed swore-in 250 members of the election petitions tribunal panels for the 2019 general elections in the country, he charged them to know that they are accountable to God under the oath they have just sworn.

“This is an ethical undertaking to justice as well as uphold the Rule of Law in our courts. As such, I implore you to discharge your onerous duty diligently and with the fear of God Almighty. The judiciary is in trying times, and you must stand to protect and uphold the integrity of this arm of government,” he said.

“I therefore congratulate you on this appointment and I urge you to see this assignment as a call to greater service to your nation. I encourage you to uphold and enhance the honour and standing of the judiciary and I pray that the Almighty Allah will bestow upon you strength, good health and wisdom in the performance of your duties.”

The Acting CJN also apologised to the newly inaugurated election tribunal members for his skipping the convention of
personally shaking hands with each of them due to “lack of time”.

That aside, the courts would be expecting a flurry of activities aimed at restoring CJN Onnoghen back to his position, on Monday.
Especially with the avalanche of condemnations that have trailed Buhari’s suspension of the CJN from the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom and other Western countries, Buhari may need little persuasion to restore the CJN since the Tribunals have already been sworn in by the Acting CJN. Though pundits say that Onnoghen might feel humiliated enough to quit. But it will definitely chip off many more votes of the fence sitters further away from him on February 16.

Another thing Buhari may fear greatly would be sanctions or travel restrictions to the West having stayed for several months in the United Kingdom for his medical tourism. Especially as the hospitals in the country have not been equipped enough to handle serious cases or ailments that afflict the rich and powerful in the country.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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