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Politicising appointment of judicial officers will destroy democracy says ex-CJN

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Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has said that the appointment of judicial officers must not be politicised for democracy and democratic governance to thrive in Nigeria.

Onnoghen made the assertion on Friday in Abuja at the unveiling of a book entitled: “Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents” authored by Mr Ogwu Onoja, (SAN).

“Let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicised, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead,” Onnoghen said.

Onnoghen also noted the need for judicial officers to be courageous in the discharge of their duties.

“Emerging Nigerian judges should not go the direction of injustice because without courageous judges, Nigeria is doomed.

“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law.

“We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour.

“Truth stands, crush it, it will still stand because it is truth,” Onnoghen said.

Speaking on the events that led to his sack in 2019, Onnoghen said that there had been a rumour that he held a meeting with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, preparatory to the 2019 general elections.

Onnoghen said the rumour was thick and spread fast, but he decided not to react to it because he never travelled to Dubai or held any meeting with anybody, including Atiku.

“Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation, there were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai.

“As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life.

“I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I seized to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978.

“At the Supreme Court, I did not sit alone, we sit in panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given an opportunity to defend myself,” the former CJN said.

According to him, the office of the CJN is not for Onnoghen but for all Nigerians who have sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic.

The former CJN appealed to all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to him but to continue to discharge their duties to the best of their ability.

He also urged Nigerians to stand by the truth saying only justice could rescue Nigeria.

For his part, Onoja said that the book was a “miracle child” conceived and birthed in the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic along with his health challenges.

According to him, fundamental rights are sets of rights that have been recognised by the laws and constitution of nations.

“These rights are deemed sacrosanct and are associated with a high degree of protection against the invasive tactics of agents of states and individuals.”

He said that the book was to create awareness and advance the cause of fundamental rights proceedings in courts.

“It generously serves as a useful compass to judges and justices of the superior courts and lawyers who are every day actors in fundamental rights cases,” he said.

Onoja added that the book was a continuation of the legal dissertation of the various rules of courts in the country.

Wandoo Sombo

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