, 26 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
1/ #Nigeria's judiciary is under the spotlight yet again, for decidedly unsavoury reasons.
2/ Barring any drastic change of plans, the CJN, Honourable Justice Walter #Onnoghen will be arraigned by @CCBNigeria this morning on 6 counts of alleged false asset declarations.
3/ The charge, based on a petition to @CCBNigeria by a self-styled anti-corruption group led by @cpcnatpubsec, a former official of @MBuhari’s defunct political party, CPC, alleges that #Onnoghen maintains multiple undeclared foreign-denominated accounts.
4/ The move has been roundly criticised by civil rights groups, @NigBarAssoc and senior members of #Nigeria’s legal community as yet another attempt by @AsoRock to intimidate the judiciary.
5/ Ordinarily, the arraignment of a highly ranked official on corruption charges or indeed any criminal charge at all is considered an indication that all men are equal before the law and that the law is being practised impartially.
6/ It, however, doesn't invoke this sense of equity and neutrality in a country like #Nigeria where criminal charges against high profile public officials hardly end in successful prosecutions and are known tools of political expediency.
7/ For one, observers have noted the remarkable speed of developments in this case. Accounting for today’s arraignment, only 3 working days have passed between the receipt of the petition by @CCBNigeria; investigation, and arraignment, an unprecedented feat in #Nigeria
8/ Given our famously labyrinthine criminal justice system, this doesn't hint at a sudden infusion of efficiency in the system but rather at the interplay of extra-judicial factors.
9/ But this is hardly the most consequential thing of note about this case.
10/ The consensus of legal opinion is that the CCT is not the appropriate venue for the arraignment of #Nigeria’s most senior judicial officer. There is an established line of laws, legal directives and judicial precedent, including a 2017 Court of Appeal case.
11/ The NJC is constitutionally empowered to recommend the appointment and removal of all Nigerian judicial officers. A critical part of that duty is the power to investigate.
12/ Most observers regard the NJC as presently constituted to be sufficiently independent and unencumbered by some of the institutional weaknesses that characterise most regulators in #Nigeria.
13/ This development will undoubtedly increase the tension between @AsoRock and the judiciary under this @NGRPresident.
14/ This administration started on a bang when DSS operatives invaded the homes of some of #Nigeria’s most senior judges in 2016. That action, roundly condemned at the time, has not yielded any successful prosecution.
15/ Furthermore, Mr #Onnoghen was hardly @MBuhari’s favoured choice for the role. In November 2016, Buhari delayed Onnoghen’s appointment for 3 months under circumstances that led to speculation that he favoured a northern appointee.
16/ That suspicion has hardly been dispensed with since. #Onnoghen is the first southern holder of the position since Justice lrikefe in 1987 - a stretch that covers eight consecutive northern chief justices.
17/ Adding fuel to this notion, Justice Mohammed, a Bauchi native is next in line to #Onnoghen, and will be the direct beneficiary, coupled with the fact that the petition was spearheaded by a former aide to the President.
18/ The timing of the arraignment also merits some commentary: @MBuhari is major contender in #NigeriaDecides2019.
19/ @OfficialPDPNig’s @Atiku is unlikely ‘to do a Goodluck Jonathan;’ and neither of them expects a concession call from the loser of what is sure to be a close vote.
20/ This means that it is highly likely that the judiciary will have the definitive say via election petition proceedings on who will be the next president.
21/ Going after #Nigeria’s highest judge at this time raises questions about the motives of the ruling @OfficialAPCNg.
22/ What undergirds all democracies is the respect for the institutional and judicial process of the state.
23/ In many cases, process is slightly more important than the outcome for the simple reason that outcomes do not set precedent for future public officials, processes do.
24/ @MBuhari and #Onnoghen will come and go, but the offices of @NGRPresident, #CJN, and @CCBNigeria, will remain.
25/ A future president may decide to pursue or permit the institutions of state under his direction to pursue a similar course of action with a future CJN because, in 2019, one of his predecessors thought it was the appropriate thing to do.
26/ A few weeks to an election season which many are increasingly seeing as a referendum on #Nigeria’s democratic practices, the country once again advertises its challenges with entrenching democratic norms.
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