The United Kingdom has reacted to the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The British High Commission, in a statement by its Head of Communications Louise Edwards, raised “serious concern” over the timing of the suspension, coming less than three weeks to the general elections.
It noted the criticism triggered by the development, saying some credible and independent voices were worried about the constitutionality of the Executive to suspend a Chief Justice of the Federation.
The British High Commission said while it respects the nation’s sovereign authority, it observes that the timing of the suspension “gives cause for concern”.
It added that the issue if not urgently addressed may affect the perceptions on the credibility of the polls within and outside the country.
It, thereafter, called for respect for due process and the rule of law.
The statement comes a day after President Buhari appointed and swore in Justice Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN.
Read the full statement below:
The British High Commission expresses serious concern over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
We have heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.
We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections. We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely.
We encourage all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised by this development through due process, demonstrating their commitment to respecting the constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law. We further urge them to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process.
Image: President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, at the State House in Abuja on January 25, 2019. Inset: Justice Walter Onnoghen.