Senator representing Bayelsa East, Ben Murray Bruce, has predicted that President Muhammadu Buhari could remove any first class Oba in Nigeria, if not stopped, following the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
Bruce, a political ally of Nigeria’s former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, said if Buhari was not stopped, he may remove the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye and the Sultan, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III. or the Obi of Onitsha.
Recalled that Buhari had last Friday suspended Onnoghen and appointed Tanko Muhammed as acting CJN, which has generated heated debate within and outside Nigeria.
Explaining his reason, the President said he suspended Onnoghen, following an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, asking him to wield the big stick.
In his speech, Buhari said the order demanded that the CJN be suspended pending the determination of his ongoing trial at the tribunal.
However, Bruce, in a tweet wrote: “We watched as Abacha killed and removing anyone who stood his way and we said we are not Yoruba or from Abiola’s family.
“Then one day he removed the Sultan himself. If we don’t stop @MBuhari today, we don’t know who he will remove next. It could be Sultan, Ooni, Emir, Oba or Obi.”
Giving reasons why he removed the troubled CJN, President Buhari said:
“A short while ago, I was served with an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued on Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen from office pending final determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and several other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers,” he said.
He added: “The nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a civil society organization first became public about a fortnight ago.
“Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.
“Perhaps more worrisome is the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing ‘mistake’ and ‘forgetfulness’, which are totally unknown to our laws as defenses in the circumstances of his case.”
The president said: “One expected that with his moral authority so wounded by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our judicial arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.
“Unfortunately, he has not done so. Instead, the nation has been treated to the sordid spectacle of a judicial game of wits in which the Chief Justice of Nigeria and his legal team have made nonsense of the efforts of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to hear the allegation on merit and conclude the trial as quickly as possible considering the nature of the times in which we live.
“Whether deliberately or inadvertently, we have all seen the full weight of the Chief Justice of Nigeria descend on the tender head of one of the organs of justice under his control.”
The president said there was simply no way the officers of that court, from the chairman to the bailiffs, can pretend to be unaffected by the influence of the leader of the judiciary.
“Not only the trial court but others have been put on the spot. Practically every other day since his trial commenced, the nation has witnessed various courts granting orders and counter-orders in favour of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, all of them characterised by an unholy alacrity between the time of filing, hearing and delivery of judgment in same.
“The real effect has been a stalling of the trial of Justice Onnoghen, helped along by lawyers who insist that these orders, whether right or wrong, are technically valid, and must be obeyed till an appellate court says otherwise. No doubt, that it is the proper interpretation, but is it the right disposition for our nation?” he said.
He said Nigeria as a constitutional democracy, no one must be or be seen to be above the law.
“Unfortunately, the drama around the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria has challenged that pillar of justice in the perception of the ordinary man on the street. For it is certain that no ordinary Nigerian can get the swift and special treatment Justice Onnoghen has enjoyed from his subordinates and privies in our judicature.
“In the midst of all these distracting events, the essential question of whether the accused CJN actually has a case to answer has been lost in the squabble over the form and nature of his trial. This should not be so,” he said.
The president said if justice cannot be done and clearly seen to be done, society itself is at risk of the most unimaginable chaos.
“As a government, we cannot stand by wailing and wringing our hands helplessly but give our full backing and support to those brave elements within the Judiciary who act forthrightly, irrespective of who is involved,” he said.
Buhari said the efforts of the executive would amount to nothing without the cooperation of the legislature, and especially the judiciary.
“It is no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted by the trial and appellate courts.
“Since there is nothing the executive arm can do after the apex court of the land has spoken on any matter, several of these individuals walk free among us today, enjoying what are clearly the proceeds of the corruption which for so long has defeated the efforts of this nation to develop and prosper,” he said.
He added; “It was against this background that I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing me to suspend the Chief Justice pending final determination of the cases against him. It also explains why I am not only complying immediately, but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by these anomalies.”
But Senator Bruce said Buhari is toeing the path of a dictator. How true is the position of Bruce that Buhari may start removing first class traditional rulers in Nigeria.