FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, February 3, 2019
[email protected]
Jos, Nigeria
ONNOGHEN’S SUSPENSION:
DOES A LACUNA EMPOWER ANINSTITUTION TO INVOKE THE DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY OR ACT WITH IMPUNITY?

h yes it does. But whether the discretionary powers of the institution required that it acted in the interest of the federal republic of Nigeria or against it and in a parochial manner is not exactly clear. This, I believe is reason why the suspension of embattled CJN Walter Onnoghen has stirred the hornet’s nest. Overtime, a lacuna – because it doesallow a person or an institution to act as they deemed fit – has been misused by ambitious and parochial minded leaders who (in the name of doing publicgood) carry out very personal or anti-people stunts.

Several points in the CJN’s saga actually do begfor clarifications. First, it was alleged that the CJN did not disclose all ofhis foreign accounts. This, the CJN admitted as an oversight on his part and, shouldtherefore – according to the positions held by very respected legal minds – haveamounted to a no case. Secondly, we were told that millions of dollars arefound in those accounts. On this allegation, a competent court was yet to saywhether or not if the monies are legitimate or a corrupt enrichment.

Thirdly, a suspension was effected against theCJN without a valid court order to do so. And if we also call to mind that thissame institution called the presidency has a valid court order that required itto release Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzakky from detention since 2016; the questionbecomes: Why the haste to remove Walter Onnoghen? Recall also that it was untilthe civil society groups had mounted an unbearable pressure on the Presidencythat Engr. Babachir Lawal – who was already indicted by a panel – was suspended.

I can go on and on to mention several areas wherethe law was clearly disregarded by this same institution that claims to act inthe interest of the federation in this instance. The former SEC DG Munir Gwarzoand the former scribe of the NHIS Prof. Yusuf Usman, are two cases that are asprovoking as the CJN’s yet nothing is done about it. The sack of Col. LawalDaura (rtd) of the DSS is one that should attract a follow up of the law but isbeen swept under the carpet.

While not giving in to sentiment or bias; it is necessaryto now question the legality of exploiting a lacuna in law to do damage insteadof good and what it portends for our nascent democracy if a lacuna continued tobe without definitive features that could make it of use in a positive way. Unlikethe Doctrine of necessity which is clearly instinctive or envisaged situationswhere a lacuna existed and demanded an urgent as well as a proactive measure; alacuna is only a gap that is not sure to be filled with the right actionsalways.

I think that if a lacuna is made to be exploitedonly when what is legally right is to be done; Nigeria will be a better place. Forour nascent democracy to be bastardized, collapse or be abused in the name ofexploiting a lacuna that existed in the Constitution is to appear – in the eyesof the world – as people without the willingness to act with civility. It isannoying to note that despite the clarity of relevant sections of the 1999 constitution(as amended) about the removal of the CJN, the government moved ahead to showimpunity.

Impunity that they now seek to legalize by hidingbehind a supposed lacuna. And I ask: They promised us CHANGE; what are theydoing differently from the deeds of the governments of Chief Obasanjo and Dr.Jonathan before now? Also, the nomination and subsequent appointment of TankoMohammed – a Sharia court judge – is a signal that Onnoghen’s ouster is simplyto pave the way for the APC to use the judiciary for the purposes of legitimizingwhat they are about to carry out during the coming elections.

Let us not be deceived, Onnoghen’s ouster is whatthe powers-that-be in ASO ROCK only wanted. If you are in doubt; watch whatwill follow with the case. I can tell with authority that the case will die asthe federal government will give no time at all to whatever the courts will sayand will not even show that they are in a legal battle with anyone. My argumenthere is simple and it is that even though an institution can invoke thedoctrine of necessity because of a lacuna, it is not the same thing as to actwith impunity.

What the president’s action translates to countfor a brandishing of illiteracy - because it is illiterate to act with impunityin the face of the law – in such a way that Nigeria now looked quite foolish ifshe allowed for a re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and his gang ofjihadist to power after February 16th, 2019. The suspended CJN isanother victim to suffer from Nigeria’s highly flawed constitution. His fall isa reminder that as far as true democracy was concerned; it is not yet Uhuru.

The undoubtedly powerful presidency is still aclog in the wheel of progress for enthronement of the rule of law. Therefore,those who applaud the president today must be careful lest they become victims tomorrow.Democracy or the rule of law means nothing to these persons in power. You justread of arson in INEC’s office in Abia state where PVCs in their thousands aremelted by fire. Naija voters; for the APC, DIS ELECTION NA DO-OR-DIE AFFAIR. So,don’t be fooled by the crowd; Buhari’s lost market value.


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