Atiku writes UK, US others over Onnoghen’s suspension
The opposition People’s Democratic Party presidential Candidate and former Vice president of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar has petitioned the United Kingdom, United State of America, France and Germany over the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as Nigeria’s chief justice.
“I have chosen to write this letter to Your Excellency for the enviable role that your country plays as champion of Democracy and the Rule of Law,” Abubakar wrote in the letter on Tuesday.
“As a Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming General Elections that will be conducted and supervised by the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
“I feel the urgent need to share with you some of these key violations of the provisions of our constitution and to demand that you pile pressure on the Federal Government to desist from these violations and ensure a level playing field for the General Elections that are only a couple of weeks away.
Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari on Friday swore in Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed as the new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria to replace embattled Onnoghen.
His swearing-in followed Onnoghen’s suspension by the president, who acted based on an order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Onnoghen is facing a six-count charge of non-declaration of assets when he became the chief justice of Nigeria. Buhari said the allegations against Onnoghen were “grievous enough”.
Onnoghen’s suspension sparked reactions from Nigerians including the U.S. and Uk government
Uk noted that the “timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern.”
“It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections,” the statement read.
“We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely,” the statement read.
While the United State, on the other hand, said it “is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.”
“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of the government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful.”
The Nigerian government said the reactions of the two countries were hasty.
The government said it would welcome partnerships for successful 2019 general elections but would not condone unfair interference in matters that are specifically internal.
“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement on Monday.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections,” he added
But the former Vice president in his letter insisted that the “attempt to muscle out the Chief Justice of Nigeria using phoney charges at a time when His Lordship was primed to play a central role in the fast-approaching nationwide electoral process represents the boldest steps in the march to undermine our democracy,”
“This is undoubtedly an anti-democratic act which my political Party and I reject without reservation and for which I urge Your Excellency to condemn unequivocally,” he added
Abubakar affirmed that the “brazen authoritarian and imperious stride of the President Buhari is the latest action in a series of carefully planned onslaught on our nation’s hard-earned democracy by an extremely power hungry and anxious President and the cabal that feeds fat around him as February 16, 2019, draws nearer.”
Nigerians will be heading to poll less than a month from now to vote in a new president.
Buhari is seeking re-election with Abubakar mounting a strong challenge.
Abubakar, a former vice president during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration from 1999 till 2007, is contesting the office of the president for the fourth time
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