Read and Learn: Raw Law on the Justice Walter Onnoghen’s saga

Let me be blunt with you. Don’t allow those beating drums of war deceive you. Saying ‘Let’s all gather and insult Buhari.’ Don’t be too quick to judgement or emotional or sentimental. What is the position of the law. Here are a few legal points to help spice up your thoughts.


1. Buhari is the President of Nigeria. As the President he posses all the Executive Powers in Nigeria all by himself. He might delegate these powers though.


2. The famous National Judicial Council responsible for discipline of judicial officers is an executive body. I repeat that NJC is an executive body. At least, That’s what the Constitution says. See paragraph 20 of 3rd Schedule, CFRN, 1999 (As Amended).


3. Yes NJC like other executive bodies are doing what the President can do by himself. Section 5 (1)(a) of the CFRN vest all executive powers on the person of the President.

4. Here is the most shocking aspect of the law that some lawyers might not tell, THE PRESIDENT DOES NOT NEED ANY REASON TO start removal process of CJN. Yes! That’s the law in section 292(1)(a)(I) of the CFRN. The procedure to remove CJN is radically different from the procedure to remove other Judges. Those citing section 292 blindly have either never read it or they are too emotional to understand that there are 3 separate procedures there. Sub paragraph (1)(a)(I) only requires address of 2/3 majority of the Senate to remove the CJN and nothing more. It doesn’t require any misconduct, incapacity or breach of code of conduct. These wrongs are only required in sub paragraphs (1)(a)(ii) and (1)(b) which doesn’t apply to CJN. Hence, the CCT trial is not needed. NJC recommendation is also not needed.


5. Section 292 doesn’t provide for recommendation of removal before the President can commence removal process of the CJN. The general provision in paragraph 21 of 3rd schedule of CFRN can not supercede or overide the express provision of the substantive provision in section 292(1)(a)(I). In the law, the expresio unis et expresio alterius. That is the express mentioned of one thing necessarily means the exclusion of all others. The Removal of CJN was specifically provided to be by just 2/3 majority of senate and nothing more.


6. In law, suspension is the first step towards removal or discipline. “The word ‘suspension’ means a temporary privation or deprivation, cassation or stoppage of or from, the privileges and rights of a person. The word carries or conveys a temporary or transient disciplinary procedure which keeps away the victims or person disciplined from his regular occupation or calling either for a fixed or terminal period or indefinitely. The disciplinary procedure gives the initiation of the discipline a period to make up his mind as to what should be done to the person facing the discipline. Although in most cases, suspension, results in a disciplinary action, it is not invariably so. There are instances when the authority decides not to continue with the matter. This could be because the investigations did not result in any disciplinary conduct.” Per OGUNTADE, JSC. (P. 43, paras. A-E)LONGE V. FBN PLC
(2010) LPELR-1793(SC). Thus, the first step towards investigation and removal of CJN is suspension.


8. Suspension is not removal. You have seen the above decision. Don’t allow someone bamboozle you into believing that removal and suspension is thesame. That’s a white lie. Lolz.

8. So what is next? Investigation of the criminal allegations can be carried out after suspension with a view of seeking the address of 2/3 majority of the Senate to either remove the CJN or quash the allegations and reinstate him to come back and continue. That’s it.


9. Well, someone might ask, how about the order of the Court of Conduct Tribunal? That’s is completely unnecessary as the law doesn’t give them any role on the removal of CJN. Remember I said CJN and not other Judges. Thus, the order of the CCT is simply superfluous or what the Hausa man call “gera”.


10. Does the law empowers the President to suspend the CJN? Well the simple answer is yes. Section 11 of Interpretation Act provides that he who has power to appoint also has power to suspend. In any event suspension is part and parcel of the process of removing the CJN. As we have seen that NJC has no role in the removal of CJN. Thus, it is the President that is invested the powers to commence the removal process by first suspending the CJN to pave way for proper investigation and trial if need be.


11. How about all the decisions people are citing on removal of judicial officers? They all don’t apply to CJN. The process of removal of CJN is different from other judicial officers.


12. But is it morally right for seemingly corrupt government to go after seemingly corrupt people? Well, we all have conscience to take moral decisions. So I leave you with your conscience on this. I have only enumerated the raw law on the Onnoghen’s Saga.

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Hope you are enlighten?


Meanwhile, congratulations to the Acting CJN.


P. D. Pius
Abuja, Nigeria.
[email protected]

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