BREAKING: Tension In Aso Rock, As United Nations Reveals Buhari Broke International Law - ROUND GIST

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

BREAKING: Tension In Aso Rock, As United Nations Reveals Buhari Broke International Law

Diego Garcia-Sayan, a United Nations expert has revealed that the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, broke international human rights standards on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

Garcia-Sayan, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said on Monday that the international human rights standards broke by President Buhari provide that judges may be dismissed only when they have been involved in serious cases of misconduct or incompetence.

Garcia-Sayan, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate legal and judicial independence, said dismissing judges without following legal procedures or offering a chance to contest the decision was incompatible with the independence of the judiciary.

According to a statement by him, “International human rights standards provide that judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence. Any decision to suspend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court.”

Buhari, who was a military ruler in the 1980s and was voted into office in 2015, is hoping to win a new term in a presidential election scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 16, 2019. It should be noted that if disputes arise from the general election, the chief justice could preside over them which is evident by the fact the country’s judiciary has helped in resolving electoral disputes in past votes, some of which have been marred by violence and ballot rigging.

Recall that President Buhari suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen on January 25 after an order by a tribunal on public officials’ conduct and replaced him with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad. But four courts superior to the tribunal had already ordered a stay of proceedings and the tribunal had previously said it lacked jurisdiction over cases involving judicial officers, Garcia-Sayan said.

The UN statement said some of the judges and the defence lawyers involved in Onnoghen’s case had been subject to serious threats, pressures and interference.

The move by President Buhari prompted anger among the country’s civil society groups and opposition and in fact, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) decided to embark on a two-day warning boycott of all courts in Nigeria over Onnoghen’s suspension. The NBA then held protests in the country’s capital city, Abuja and the South-Eastern part of Enugu to reject the suspension of Onnoghen which they described as an “attempted coup against the Nigerian judiciary”.

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