Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Acting CJN Says Buhari Does Not Need NJC’s Appendage Before Appointment As Bauchi Gov Seek Court Redress Over INEC Decision




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The Acting chief justice of the federation Tanko Muhammad has said President Mohammadu Buhari does not needs the appendage of the national judicial council (NJC) to appoint him as acting chief justice of Nigeria (CJN). He was also quoted as saying he was not aware CJN Walter Onnoghen was suspended before he (Tanko) was sworn in.
He stated this while responding to a query by the NJC.


The query followed a petition by a group, Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, which asked the NJC to strip him of his role as a justice of the Supreme Court for accepting the position of acting CJN without the council’s nod.
He said: “In my respectful view, the National Judicial Council has no role to play in the appointment of an acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in the first instance, that is to say on the first appointment. The council comes in where the appointment as the acting CJN is to be renewed or extended. I humbly refer to Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution.
“It was for the larger interest of the judiciary and the constitutionality that I accepted to be sworn in as acting CJN with the conviction that if the order of January 23, 2019, is eventually set aside, the status quo would be restored. But before it is set aside, there should be no vacuum in the office of the CJN and the chairman of the NJC.”
He said further: “On January 25, 2019, I was summoned to the Aso Villa at the instance of the president. Prior to the summons, I was not aware of the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) made an order on January 23, 2019. Furthermore, beyond what I read in the newspapers and watched on the television, just like any other Nigerian, I was not privileged to see any of the processes filed by the parties before the tribunal. Hence, I could not really appreciate the merit or demerit of divergent positions.
“On the 25th day of January, the president swore me in as the acting CJN and not as the substantive CJN. Justice Walter Onnoghen remains the CJN until he is removed from office in accordance with the provision of the constitution. He is only suspended.”
Onnoghen meanwhile has alleged that agents of the Federal Government tampered with his Assets Declaration Forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
He made the claim at his resumed trial yesterday at the CCT.
The said documents include CCB Assets Declaration Forms of 2014 and 2015.
The first prosecution witness, James Akpalla, a senior investigative officer with the CCB, sought to tender the said documents in support of his evidence against Onnoghen during yesterday’s proceedings.
When the documents were shown to the defendant, however, Onnoghen, through his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, told the tribunal that a careful look at them showed that they had been tampered with.
According to him, the 2014 form “has become loose, part of it mutilated and has become blue in a way.”
Awomolo stated that a similar observation was made in the 2015 form with duplications and omissions of some pages. “We have some reservations on the documents. We will not object in the interest of justice but we have reservations that would be addressed at the end of the day,” he said.
Akpalla, in his evidence in chief, told the tribunal that the CCB on January 10 referred a petition written by the Anti-Corruption and Research Database Initiative to his team for investigation.
The witness added that on the strength of the petition signed by one Chief Dennis Aghanya, he visited Onnoghen in his office at the Supreme Court, where a cautionary statement was obtained from him, while letters were also written to the Standard Chartered Bank for account details of the defendant with the bank.
He further held that the following day, January 11, the bank responded, prompting the investigating team to conclude their enquiry and prepare their report.
Under cross-examination, the witness informed the tribunal that he did not know whether the CCB has a central registry and register where returned assets forms are deposited and registered.
While responding to another question, the witness told the tribunal that investigation into the petition against Onnoghen was concluded within 24 hours.
Drama however ensued when Awomolo confronted the witness with the charge against Onnoghen, proof of evidence, list of exhibits and witnesses, which were all dated January 10, when an investigation into the petition had not been completed.
Also, when the witness attempted to deny the involvement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the CCB investigation, Awomolo confronted him with yet another set of documents from Standard Chartered Bank addressed to the EFCC but tendered by the witness.
At this point, the witness said he was not aware that the charges against Onnoghen were filed before the completion of the investigation and consequently declined further comments on the bank’s document addressed to the EFCC.
In the course of the proceedings, the petition against Onnoghen, two documents from his bank, his cautionary statement and the two assets declaration forms he once submitted to the CCB were admitted as exhibits by the tribunal.
 Hearing on the matter has been adjourned till March 21.
Meanwhile, Bauchi state Governor, Mohammed Abubakar has hinted president Mohammadu Buhari's support over  his decision challenging in court the decision by the independent National Election National Electoral Commission (INEC) to resume Collation instead of conducting supplementary elections this weekend in Bauchi state
The electoral body had declared the exercise inconclusive and scheduled a rerun in Tafawa/Balewa council area of the state.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents and that which is monitored by urban express news online after he met with the president in Abuja, the governor declared INEC’s action as illegal.
Abubakar said he had come to brief the nation’s number one citizen on his next line of action.
He said: “I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle. I briefed him and he emphasised that it is the best way to go.”
Besides, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Yekini Nabena, has blamed the loss of Bauchi on malfunctioned card readers.
Addressing reporters in Abuja, he enjoined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to rush into jubilation, as “INEC would be made to offer explanations” for the alleged infractions.
Alleging collusion, Nabena wondered how APC that won 21 seats to PDP’s five in the state assembly could have lost the governorship.
While justifying the need for a rerun at the aforementioned council, the spokesman recalled that the returning officer, Mrs Dominion Anosike, had alleged intimidation and harassment during collation of the results.
On the already declared Katagum Federal House of Representatives result in favour of PRP, the national officer described it as an error on the part of INEC.
“It is a clear case of an inconclusive election because the margin between the PRP and APC candidates is less than the cancelled votes. So, we are demanding justice if INEC is not deliberately against the APC, “ he said.
Also yesterday, a former commissioner of information and chieftain of the party in the state, Alhaji Salisu Barau, and Concerned Citizens of Tafawa Balewa kicked against the resumption of collation today by the electoral umpire.
INEC had declared the results of local council inconclusive citing theft of original result sheets by hoodlums on March 10.
Speaking with newsmen, the caretaker chairman of the support group, Salihu Barau, stated that the law provides that such the decision could only be reversed by a court of law or tribunal.
He maintained: “There is no certainty on the genuineness of the allegedly generated results. Thus, we have lost confidence in INEC as it is apparent there would be no justice in the whole exercise.”

The PDP candidate, Bala Mohammed, is ahead of the incumbent governor with over 4,000 votes in the results announced from 19 of the 20 local governments by the returning officer, Muhammad Kyari.

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