How can one describe the flurry of activities in the Nigerian judiciary this past week – five days of major court judgements culminating in Friday’s ‘explosion’ with the Chief Justice’s suspension by the President?
It is difficult to think back on any other week that has packed in such punches in the judiciary which is usually a quiet domain where the wheels of justice move with sedate speed and there seems to be no hurry.
Just get a load of the week as we walk back:
1. New acting Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed sworn in by the President.
2. President suspends Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.
3. Federal High Court affirms that Zamfara APC cannot field candidates for the General elections due to faulty primaries.
4. Appeal Court returns Donald Duke as SDP presidential candidate.
5. Appeal Court rules that Code of Conduct should stop the trial of CJ Onnoghen.
6. Supreme Court fixed Friday to decide on Rivers State APC primaries and if INEC should accept candidates.
There were much more of course, but recall too that there were also other flurries during the week, including the withdrawal of Oby Ezekwesili from the presidential race, the meeting of the National Council of State during with the new minimum wage of N27,000 was approved and the draft bill sent to the National Assembly pronto next day, and then reports of political campaigns, debates etc.
But the events in the Judiciary carry the gong.
Of course there have been the usual flurry of comments in the midst of the turmoil generated by the suspension of the CJ.
Arguments for and against the president’s action as to whether he has the powers to take such an action have filled the space.
Most of those against are of course screaming blue murder and citing the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. It’s been a hot debate because it is a battle on the top hierarchy of the nation. The CJ is in the National protocol list, the number 5 citizen of the country, after the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate President, Vice-President and President.
Any fight between any of the leading officers or their arms of government will always generate furore. But this one is different because this is the first time in our history.
So what do we look forward to from Monday?
There will be a lot of legal actions in the courts and the media – of course – by both learned and unlearned people who will try and dissect the constitution and other laws on the why and why not.
The Nigerian Bar Association has thrown its hat into the ring first by calling for an emergency meeting in Abuja on Monday for its top brass. Actions will be filed in courts by concerned and unconcerned people who will declare themselves affected by the CJ imbroglio.
Come to think of it – ain’t we all affected?
From all indications, the ‘fun’, if you can call it that, is just starting. It looks like a hit and busy three weeks ahead before the presidential election on February 16.
Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.