NJC reconvenes over Onnoghen, Muhammad today

The National Judicial Council (NJC) will reconvene today to consider the responses of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad to the queries issued to them by the council.

The council had at its emergency meeting held on January 29 given both top jurists seven days to respond  to petitions written against them.

A statement by the council’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, said the decision to query the two senior jurists were taken during the emergency meeting held at the council’s chambers in Abuja.

None of the lawyers, who had so far represented Onnoghen, would volunteer information regarding his response to the query.

However, some council members were said to favour a decision that would lead to easing out the embattled CJN.

Others are quick to argue that Justice Muhammad too should go having accepted to be sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari in the absence of council’s recommendation to the president.

A judge of Abia State High Court was punished in similar circumstances when for no fault of his, the Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, appointed him acting chief judge of the state after the governor had illegally suspended the then chief judge.

At its January’s council meeting, NJC elected Justice Umaru Abdullahi,  a former President of the Court of Appeal as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting. He will preside at council meeting today.

The council’s statement issued in January read: “The National Judicial Council held an Emergency Meeting today and considered four petitions filed at its Secretariat.  The petitions are: Petition against Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education; Petition against Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative; Petition against Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; and Petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.

“Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.

“In line with its procedure, Council also forwarded the petitions against Justices W.S.N. Onnoghen, and I. T. Muhammad, to them for their responses.

“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, council abridged the usual response period from 14 to seven working days for the justices to respond.

“Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen and. Justice I.T. Muhammad, recused themselves from the meeting.  Consequently, Council elected Justice Umaru Abdullahi former President of the Court of Appeal, as interim chairman to preside over the meeting.”

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