Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (rtd) has opened up for the first time on why the Federal Government removed him unceremoniously from office in 2019.
Last year, Onnoghen at the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) Calabar branch law week likened his removal from office to the relationship between the lion and an antelope.
He said: “The lion noticed an antelope downstream that was also drinking water. The lion shouted at the antelope and accused it of ruffling the water. The antelope reminded the great lion that he (lion) is the one drinking from upstream and therefore the only one that can ruffle the waters;
Not done, the lion went on and accused the antelope of abusing him, the king of the jungle during the burial of its (antelope’s) grandfather sometimes in the past. The antelope replied that he couldn’t have insulted the king of the jungle at the burial since he was not yet born then.
The lion then roared back that I am going to eat you for lunch today to which the antelope replied: “That’s what you should have said in the first place”.
The former CJN made his fresh revelation at a book launch on Friday. The book is titled Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents’, authored by a renowned legal luminary, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, SAN.
According to Onnoghen, prior to his removal, there had been rumour from the Executive that he held a meeting with former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
The rumour he noted was thick and spread fast, saying he decided not to react to it because it never happened.
He said despite the fact that the President Buhari’s administration had all the machineries to investigate the allegation of the rumoured meeting with Atiku, it never did so, but opted to unlawfully go after him and his office.
The last straw Onnoghen restated was when his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was arranged, even when he had not been invited or accused of any wrongdoing.
“The action of the government against me further got to the peak when in the course of the trial and when parties had joined issues, an ex-parte application was suddenly brought in, and what followed was my illegal and unlawful suspension as the CJN.
“Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I ceazed to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978.
While making a reference to a similar ordeal in 2019, he said, ” This was not the first time such would happen. In 2019, during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, a Commission was set up after i was indicted of wrongdoing, even when i was not invited or a appeared before the Commission to defend himself.
“But because former President Obasanjo was a leader who listened to advice, the matter was referred to the National Judicial Council NJC for review.
“At the Council, truth surfaced and it was upheld to resolve uncleared issues,” Onnoghen said.
He nevertheless regretted that the Buhari government did not give him an opportunity to defend himself.
Onnoghen then tasked Nigerian judges to be courageous, insisting that Nigeria is doomed if truth is not upheld.