The Nigerian government has clarified some misconceptions by the US, UK and the EU over Friday’s suspension of the Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, one of which is that he has not been sacked, but suspended.
|Justice Muhammad Tanko receiving oath of office as Acting Chief Judge of Nigeria on Friday in Aso chamber of the presidential villa
Another point is that he is not the man that will conduct the February and March elections. He is only a final arbiter, in case there were disputes in the election.
The Federal Government made the clarification Sunday night. It was the second statement by the government over the concerns expressed by the Western nations, the latest, in a joint statement.
Government’s clarification, stating the genesis of the case, was given in a statement by Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant on the media to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement reads “Presidency notes with interest the coordinated statements of the US, UK and EU linking the suspension of CJN Onnoghen to the conduct of the upcoming elections. We appreciate the concerns voiced by the three statements and accept that the authors of the statements believe they were acting in friendship toward Nigeria with regard to making the statements.
However, we also note that friends, when not properly informed or acting in haste, can indeed make serious mistakes even with the best of intentions. Such is the case here.
The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy. This is unfortunate. But this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation.
The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives.
CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing.
The CJN was brought before the CCT because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration. This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.
All credible evidence indicates the CJN owned and operated several secret bank accounts. Unexplained large sums of money, exceeding several million dollars have passed through these accounts. Several thousand dollars are currently parked in the accounts. Multiple deposits of equal sums of money were deposited in some of those accounts during the same day. Such rapid and equal deposits are indicative of a person attempting to evade banking reporting laws and regulations.
Thus far, CJN Onnoghen has given no plausible explanation for the funds or for failing to report the subject accounts in his assets declaration despite having ample time and opportunity to explain the omission. Given the amount of money involved and the CJN’s inability to explain the source of the funds, the most plausible explanation at this point is also the most unfortunate explanation. No one did this to CJN Onnoghen. He and he alone is to blame for this turn of events”.