The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, on Monday, warned the ruling All Progressives Congress against plunging Nigeria into a constitutional crisis and in the process derailing the country’s democracy.
According to the former Vice-President, the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, is “an attack on the judiciary”.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Atiku accused the Muhammadu Buhari government of “executive lawlessness”.
He said, “I must warn the APC government to desist from taking actions that may push us further down the slippery slope towards a major constitutional crisis that could derail the electoral process.
“General Muhammadu Buhari must remember that he is a beneficiary of a free and fair election. It is therefore a matter of honour for him to allow a political environment and process that gives everyone confidence.
“I commend all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria who have expressed outrage at the unlawful removal of Onnoghen, an action which constitutes a flagrant breach of our constitution and a frontal assault on our democracy. I want to note the universal condemnation of this unlawful act by all Nigerians, as well as the international community.”
He added, “I need to state that this latest action by General Muhammadu Buhari falls squarely within the pattern of executive lawlessness that has now been firmly turned into statecraft by the APC government.
“The serial disregard of court orders, and consequent violation of constitutionally guaranteed human rights of our citizens confirms beyond all doubt that General Buhari and his government would rather obey their own whims and operate by separate rules outside the well-established constitutional order and the rule of law. It scarcely requires emphasis that this behaviour is alien to democratic rules and more in line with that of a military dictator.”
Atiku said the nation’s judiciary must not only be above suspicion but must also be seen to be manifestly above board.
He said the issue at stake was not whether Onnoghen was guilty or not, but whether his suspension was constitutional.
He said, “To create a condition that allows the constitution and the rule of law to become secondary to any other agenda is to pave the way for tyranny. History is replete with odious dictators whose path to dictatorship started with statements of good intentions.
“We must, therefore, remain vigilant in defence of our democracy.”
The ex-VP added, “With this attack on the judiciary, General Buhari has set a new precedent in our democracy that has no equivalence in our history, not even in the darkest days of military dictatorship. This cannot be allowed to stand.”
But the Forum of Presidential Candidates and Political Parties for Good Governance said the Onnoghen’s suspension was in order.
The chairman of the forum, Alhaji Shitu Kabir, said at a press conference in Abuja the CJN’s alleged offence didn’t require the intervention of the National Judicial Council.