‘He is an avowed democrat’ — Lai tackles those criticising Buhari over Onnoghen

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, has described President Muhammadu Buhari as an avowed democrat, defending his decision to suspend Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Mohammed said this following the backlash which trailed the action of the president.

The minister dismissed the reports that the suspension signaled the beginning of dictatorship in the country.

“Today, I have called this press conference to set the records straight and redirect the discourse,” the minister said.

“Contrary to what the opposition and their ilk have been saying, this is not about the forthcoming elections, neither does the suspension of the CJN signal the beginning of dictatorship.

“President Buhari is an avowed democrat, and this he has proven time and time again. This administration stands firm on the rule of law.

“This whole issue is about the country’s highest judicial officer, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, being accused of a breach of the Code of Conduct for public officers, and the legal and moral conundrum surrounding that. It is about the suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the suspended CJN’s personal attacks, all
undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.

“It is about the Hon. Justice Onnoghen himself admitting to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, calling it a ‘mistake’. And it is about him refusing to take responsibility, instead opting to put the entire judiciary on trial.”

He said Onnoghen was given fair hearing but he  abused his position and the judicial process by filing “frivolous applications and even dodging service of process”.

“In fact, a section of the media has taken sides. Several newspapers have written editorials on this issue,” he said.

“Some have argued that the Justice Onnoghen issue should have been referred to the NJC to handle. They would have been right if Justice Onnoghen had been accused of professional misconduct, which is what is within the purview of the NJC.

“The allegations against Justice Onnoghen go beyond professional misconduct. It is the alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. And only one body is statutorily empowered to deal with this – the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

“Contrary to the cacophony of voices that have been muddying the waters, the CCT was acting within its powers in ordering the suspension of Justice Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, and President Muhammadu Buhari was right in carrying out the order.”