UN faults Buhari’s govt on Onnoghen

February 11th, 2019

By John Okeke

The suspension of Nigeria’s most se­nior judge by Presi­dent Muhammadu Bu­hari broke international human rights standards on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, a United Nations expert has said.

“International human rights standards provide that judges may be dis­missed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence,” said Di­ego Garcia-Sayan, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, on Monday.

“Any decision to sus­pend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court,” he said in a statement .

Buhari, who was a mili­tary ruler in the 1980s and was voted into office in 2015, is hoping to win a new term in a presiden­tial election scheduled to take place on Saturday.

The chief justice could preside over any dispute over the election result.

Nigeria’s judiciary has helped resolve electoral disputes in past votes, some of which have been marred by violence and ballot rigging.

Garcia-Sayan, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate legal and judicial independence, said dismissing judges without following legal procedures or offering a chance to contest the

decision was incompat­ible with the indepen­dence of the judiciary.

Buhari suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen on January 25 following an order by a tribunal on public officials’ conduct and replaced him with Ibra­him Tanko Moham­mad.

But four courts supe­rior to the tribunal had already ordered a stay of proceedings and the tribunal had previously said it lacked jurisdic­tion over cases involv­ing judicial officers, Garcia-Sayan said.

The UN statement said some of the judges and the defence lawyers involved in Onnoghen’s case had been subject to serious threats, pressures and interference.

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