Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the attempt to remove Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), from office as a show of desperation by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku made the remark in response to the charges filed against Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Ibraheem Al-Hassan, head of press and public relations unit of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, had disclosed that Onnoghen will be arraigned before the tribunal on Monday over alleged non-declaration of assets.
This followed a petition written against him.
Reacting in a statement, Atiku said the move against Onnoghen fuels his suspicion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s “growing desperation” concerning the forthcoming elections.
He added that if Onnoghen is found guilty, he should be tried by a competent court of law and not by Buhari’s administration.
“I have received the news of the sudden charges about to be filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, with apprehension and suspicion especially as such a move against the head of an arm of our government is coming so close to an election in preparation of which the Buhari administration has shown growing desperation,” he said.
“My suspicions are further exacerbated by the fact that the Buhari government is pressuring an independent and self governing arm of government with the aim of getting CJN Walter Onnoghen to resign or be pushed aside.
“I stand on the side of the rule of law and believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
“If Justice Walter Onnoghen is guilty of the charges about to be preferred against him, let his guilt be determined by a competent court of law and not by the Buhari administration. The executive cannot usurp the role of the judiciary. Nigeria is still a democracy and not a fascist dictatorship as President Buhari may wish.
“Any attempt to force Justice Walter Onnoghen to vacate his office, 4 weeks to an election for which the unpopular Buhari administration has shown every intention to manipulate, is a move pregnant with negative meaning.
“I see no reason whatsoever for the ongoing pressure by the Buhari government to force Justice Walter Onnoghen to vacate office when he has not been convicted for any offence.
The PDP candidate called on the president to abide by the rule of law and stop his interference in the case against the CJN.
He said: “I therefore call on the President to respect the principle of separation of powers and abide by the rule of law on this matter and stop any interference or pressure on Justice Walter Onnoghen or the judiciary and allow the law and the constitution take its full course.”