The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the appointment of Ibrahim Muhammad, acting chief justice of Nigeria.
CDD, in a statement by Idayat Hassan, director of the group, said the president has no power to appoint or remove the CJN.
It accused the president of putting the nation on the path of a constitutional crisis, warning that the country cannot afford a crisis with the election less than three weeks away.
“On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen putting Nigeria on the path to constitutional crisis especially because he immediately swore in Justice Tanko Muhammad as his interim replacement without allowing the National Judicial Council and other arms of government play their constitutional roles,” the statement read.
“The President is aware that he has no such powers, so he justified his action by claiming he was obeying a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, before which Mr Onnoghen is standing trial.
“The Tribunal, however, has no such powers, and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) strongly avers that the President Must backtrack from his action as a prerequisite for resolving the quagmire as resolving the predicament we find ourselves in as a country.
“The Constitution is clear that the powers of appointment and removal are shared powers which the President cannot exercise alone. It is also settled law that only the NJC is constitutionally vested with the authority of disciplinary control including that of suspension of an erring judicial officer.”
The statement also said Onnoghen should have stepped down immediately he was charged by the Code of Conduct Bureau and allow the law to run its course.
“Mr Onneghen had himself presided over the establishment of the jurisprudence for suspension of all judicial officers charged for wrongdoing,” the statement read.
“He, therefore, had an absolute responsibility to step down immediately and allow the National Judicial Council deliberate and take a decision on the matter.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately retrace his steps and withdraw the illegal appointment of Tanko Mohammed as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen has serious charges levelled against him, and it is morally reprehensible for him to continue to stay in office until all matters are judiciously dispensed with, CDD, therefore, call on Justice Onnoghen to immediately step down and convene the National Judicial Council to meet and make a determination on the way forward.
“Nigerians are seriously concerned about the entrenched culture of corruption and impunity in the country. Therefore, it beholds on the National Judicial Council to ensure justice is not just done but seen to be done in the CJN matter.”