President Muhammadu Buhari was right to suspend Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), according to the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Friday following his trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over a non-declaration of some assets.
The development has drawn criticisms and commendation from Nigerians, opposition parties as well as the international community.
However, the ACF in a communique on Wednesday said the move was in the right direction.
”The ACF notes that the allegation against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, is that he failed to comply with the expressed provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, to wit, failure to declare his assets on assumption of office as Justice of the Supreme Court and as the Chief Justice of Nigeria,” the body noted.
“That when he was made to declare his assets as demanded by law, he failed to declare all of them.
“That among the assets he failed to declare are bank accounts in local and foreign currencies whose values run in millions of Naira.
“He also failed to declare other assets, including many houses and other landed property.
“That subsequent investigations have continued to unearth other property belonging to Justice Onnoghen, not declared.
“That Hon. Justice Onnoghen was said to have told investigators that the reason for his not declaring those assets was forgetfulness.
” Following the discovery of these infractions, the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, swiftly referred the matter to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
“Which made an order for the temporary suspension of the CJN in the interest of natural justice. However, this action by the CCT has provoked intense controversy.
“And yet, from a reading of all the facts of the matter, ACF cannot defend the position taken by the Hon. Justice Onnoghen, especially his insistence that he should first be tried by the National Judicial Council, of which he is Chairman.
“To do so would have allowed him the seat in judgment over his own case.”
“On their part, law enforcement agencies must strive to always execute their tasks in a neat and professional manner in order to avoid creating perceptions of partisanship.”
It added that “In the end, Nigeria cannot hope to develop and take its rightful place in the comity of nations unless and until we learn to respect our laws and enforce them fairly and consistently.”