The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has expressed full support for President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen.
But, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) which held a contrary position on the matter, noted that the removal of Onnoghen only showed that Buhari could not be trusted to uphold the nation’s constitution as he pledged.
The suspension of Onnoghen last Friday and appointment of Justice Tanko Muhammad as acting CJN has continued to generate different reactions.
The ACF in a communiqué signed by its Secretary-General, Mr Anthony Sani, after a meeting in Kaduna on Wednesday, made its position on the disturbing issue known.
It said in its communiqué, “The ACF notes that the allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, are that he failed to comply with the expressed provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, to wit, failure to declare his assets on assumption of office as Justice of the Supreme Court and as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“That when he was made to declare his assets as demanded by law, he failed to declare all of them.
“That Hon. Justice Onnoghen was said to have told investigators that the reason for his not declaring those assets was forgetfulness.
“Following the discovery of these infractions, the Code of Conduct Bureau, swiftly referred the matter to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which made an order for the temporary suspension of the CJN in the interest of natural justice. However, this action by the CCT has provoked intense controversy.
“And yet, from a reading of all the facts of the matter, the ACF cannot defend the position taken by the Hon. Justice Onnoghen, especially his insistence that he should first be tried by the National Judicial Council, of which he is Chairman. To do so would have allowed him to seat in judgement over his own case.”
The group went further to say, “The ACF deeply regrets the conduct of Justice Onnoghen, particularly his refusal to step aside and allow due process of the law to take its course. He has created the impression that his personal interests in this matter supersede that of the judiciary and the nation.”
According to ACF, law enforcement agencies should strive to carry out their professional duties in a manner that could not give room to partisanship.
Meanwhile, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) held a contrary position on the matter. According to the group the removal of Onnoghen only showed that that Buhari could not be trusted to uphold the nation’s constitution as he pledged.
In a statement by its President, Dr Pogu Bitrus, MBF asked the President to reinstate Onnoghen or face rejection at the polls.
“We call on him, having blatantly breached the constitution which he swore to uphold and his Oath of Office, to immediately resign.
“In the event of his refusal to do so, we call on all the peoples of the Middle Belt and all our allies to reject him at the polls,” MBF said.
It also called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to remove Justice Tanko Muhammad from office for presenting himself to be sworn in unconstitutionally as the acting CJN when he was never recommended by the NJC.