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Onnoghen speaks on removal: I didn’t meet Atiku ahead of 2019 election


Nigeria’s former Chief Justice, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Friday, revealed the circumstances leading to his removal as the country’s top judge in 2019.

The ex-CJN was sacked for allegedly meeting with former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), ahead of the 2019 general election.

Atiku was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in that election.

Onnoghen was initially suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari for alleged non-declaration of assets in February 2019.

He retired from service three months later.

The ex-CJN, who spoke at the public presentation of a book titled: “Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms, and Precedents,” written by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, insisted that he never travelled to Dubai or held any meeting with Atiku or any other persons.

He described his ordeal as the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary.

Onnoghen said: “Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. 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 the Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. We sit in a panel. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given an 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

“As I have severally, Judicial officers must be courageous. And I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me in the hand of the executive arm of the government.

“Emerging Nigerian Judges should not go in the direction of injustice because without courageous judges and justice, Nigeria is doomed.

“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. Truth stands, crush it, it will stand because it is truth.”