Lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, has faulted the Federal Government’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen.
According to him the only body that has the power to suspend a top judge is the National Judicial Council.
He said this on Monday when he made an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“The Only body that has the power to suspend is the NJC and since the Chief Justice is involved, all they need to do is to convene and the Chief Justice will not seat to chair it.
“The CJN occupies a special place like the Chief Judges that I’ve referred to and the grand cadre it’s not just like any judicial officer. For you to remove him or even any other judicial officer, the NJC must meet,” Ozekhome said.
He made these comments days after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the CJN, who is being tried over allegations of failing to declare his assets.
According to the president, the development was based on the request of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, pending the completion of the trial.
Following the suspension, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed was appointed as the acting CJN.
Ozekhome, however, stressed that with or without an exparte order, the President has no right to suspend the CJN.
In his words, “No, no, no. He does not have the power. Whether on an exparte order or on a motion on notice or even on a court judgment because the powers of appointment and suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are matters that are governed by the clear provisions of the Constitution.
“Sections 153, sections 158, Section 291, Section 292 (2) and the third schedule Section 21 part 1 and 2 of the 1999 Constitution.
“They say it is the NJC that nominates a person for appointment to the CJN. Then the CJN by 2/3rd majority vote confirms that appointment.
“The President merely plays a nominal role of now swearing in that person.
“It is the same route you follow when you are dismissing. The NJC recommends, the Senate by 2/3rd majority approves, then the president can remove”.