Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has opined what he think is the reason for his removal from office.
Mr Onnoghen, TODAY POLITICS recalled, was booted out of the judiciary prior to the 2019 general election over allegations of undeclared assets and operating foreign bank accounts not expected of him as a public servant.
President Muhammadu Buhari who sought re-election at the time suspended him weeks after the allegations was made and immediately replaced him with the present substantive head of the judiciary, Ibrahim Mohammed.
Explaining the reason for his removal, the former jurist said he was shown the way out because of a rumored meeting he had with Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and the major challenger of Buhari’s re-election bid.
Mr Onnoghen at a book launch in Abuja on Friday said he has never met with the then presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in person.
“Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai,” Onnoghen said. “As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life.
“As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free high-profile criminals, whereas I ceased to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978.
“In Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. We sat in panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen but for all Nigerians who had sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To say the least, the period of my ordeal was the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary.”
The former jurist, whom Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, sent to the Senate for confirmation as substantive CJN when his principal, Muhammadu Buhari, was recuperating abroad, also urged serving judicial officers not to be weighed down by what happened to him, warning that appointments in the judicial sector should not be politicized.
“Emerging Nigerian judges should not go the direction of injustice because, without courageous judges and justice, Nigeria is doomed,” he said.
“Here, let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicized, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law. We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour,” Onnoghen added.