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The United States of America and the European Union has reacted to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement from The US Government through its embassy in Abuja made a statement on Saturday. The US said the Executive arm of government should respect the rule of law and resolve issues surrounding Onnoghen’s removal peacefully.
The US faulted the CJN removal in the statement without the support of the legislative arm.
The statement reads: “The Embassy of the United States is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.
“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch.
“That undercuts the stated determination of the government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.
“We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process.”
In a separate statement, the European Union expressed fear over the way and manner of the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria. They also query the timing.
Through its Press and Public Outreach Officer, Sarah Fradgley, the European Union Election Observation Mission, EU EOM, the question of whether due process was followed was a key one that needed an answer.
However, the EU urged the Government of Nigeria to follow due processes in line with the constitution of the country.
The EU statement reads: “The European Union was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the 2019 general elections.
“The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.
“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.
“The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed. The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.
“The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.
“The EU EOM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities.”