President Muhammadu Buhari has no constitutional right to reject the resignation of Walter Onnoghen, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, a legal practitioner, Inibehe Effiong has said.
Mr Onnoghen who was suspended by the president, stepped down from his position last week in a resignation letter he wrote to Mr Buhari.
The top jurist convicted on Thursday was accused of not declaring some assets traced to him. Delivering its judgement, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) where he was arraigned claimed to have jurisdiction over the matter against its earlier claim of otherwise in another case involving the Federal Government and Justice Ngwuta.
The CCT under the chairmanship of Danladi Umar, sacked and banned Onnoghen from holding any public office in the country until after a period of 10 years.
Although the jurist resigned before the judgement was given, Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the president has the right to reject the resignation letter of the jurist thereby denying him of his entitlements after leaving office.
Similarly some reports in the media said State governors from the South South region, where the top jurist hail from, were pleading with Mr Buhari to accept the resignation letter on the basis of a soft landing for their ‘son.’
But accessing the claim, Mr Effiong in an interview aired on Arise Television at the weekend said Buhari has no constitutional rights to reject any resignation letter addressed to him once his office is the appointing authority.
He argued that the resignation of anyone appointed by the office of the president takes effect whenever the authority involved takes delivery of the epistle.
Effiong said if the office of the president has acknowledged to have received such letter, there is no need contemplating whether the head of the executive arm of government has right to reject it because the resignation has already taken effect.
“I want to first correct the perception in the public domain that the president has the discretion to accept or reject his (Onnoghen) resignation letter,” the lawyer said.
“That is wrong, it is unsubstantiated, it is untenable in law because by virtue of Section 306 of the (Nigerian) constitution, resignation takes effect when the notice of resignation is received by the appointing authority.
“The moment Onnoghen submitted his letter, he has resigned,” Effiong said while admitting that the jurist should have taken the bold step earlier when the allegation against him was made public.
A perusal of the constitution by POLITICS TIMES showed the lawyer is right with his submission. Subsection 2 of Section 306 of the Nigerian Constitution says, “The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”
Effiong also lashed out at the CCT over the manner with which the tribunal became a judge in its own case.
He said a petition filed by Onnoghen at the appellate court challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him without recourse to the National Judicial Council (NJC) was yet to be decided but the CCT went on to rule it had jurisdiction after acknowledging the petition at the higher court.