Olisa Agbakoba

Maritime lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari can’t absolve himself or pretend that he is not aware of charges filed by the federal government against the Chief Justice of the Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Speaking yesterday on Arise News, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper, Agbakoba said he would challenge the federal government in court, adding that the head of the courts is entitled to certain immunity different from the immunity granted the president and governors by Section 308 of the constitution.

The senior advocate of Nigeria stated that the insinuation in some quarters that Buhari was not aware was tantamount to what former presidents of the United States of America were doing during the inglorious days when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents went killing people around the world and the president would claim not to be aware of it.

While advising the government to withdraw what he described as “rubbish case,” Agbokoba said the belief that the president does not know about the case is not tenable, adding that what the president is doing is “plausible deniability,” just like the president of the US always denies knowledge of actions of the CIA.

He hinted that President Buhari is very much aware of every action against the CJN, hence he has not spoken out about it.

The human rights advocate further said the way the arraignment of the CJN was handled smack of political interference by the executive on an issue that should otherwise have been handled by the National Judicial Council (NJC), adding that what made this worse is the speed at which it was handled. It was all done within three days, he added.

The legal expert wondered how efficient the Nigerian judicial system is that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) would receive a petition on Wednesday, framed charges on Thursday and get it signed by the chairman of the CCB on Saturday, adding that “that shows a super-efficient federal government.”

He said the government shot itself in the leg by bringing the case in such a hurry, a situation which is responsible for the untidiness in its filing.

Agbakoba also opined that the move against Onnoghen may not be unconnected with the feeling in certain circles in the government that the judiciary may have been anti-All Progressives Congress (APC) because of its rulings in recent times.

The lawyer cum activist, who said he would file a case before the court on the issue, stressed that it is only the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that can deal with such case, and that what the executive arm of government has done is inferring in the activities of another arm of government which has equal jurisdiction.

He insisted that the CJN, like the president, the governor and their deputies, also enjoys official immunity which ordinarily has been violated by the action of the federal government.

Agbakoba stressed that due process was not followed by the government in Onnoghen’s case because the National Judicial Council (NJC) should have been approached first in dealing with the case or the Senate, adding that by bypassing the process, the government case cannot stand.

“Only the NJC has the authority to investigate any infraction by any judicial officer,” he stressed.

Agbakoba warned that unless the right thing is done by the government in this case, the situation might lead to a constitutional crisis, which might find all people involved in the judicial process in the country downing tool to ensure that justice is served.

“We are strong and resolute that this rubbish will not happen; it will have the gravest consequences, so I appeal to the federal government to withdraw the charge, and in the event that it has a case against the CJN, to proceed to the Senate to file a charge,” he insisted.

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