Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, says any “self-respecting” judge who is being accused of breaching the Constitution should, on his own, step down until such case is cleared.
He said this in a phone interview with Channels Television on Friday, while reacting to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnghen.
“Looking at it from the moral angle, the head of the Judiciary, the number one judicial officer of the country, head of a branch of government, is under suspicion of breaking a very very grave provision of the Constitution, for which there is provision that he could lose his job… If he is accused, any self-respecting judge would have stepped down pending the prosecution of the whole matter,” he said.
The PACAC Chairman, therefore, stated that the decision to suspend him pending the completion of the trial was constitutionally right.
“This decision is both legally, morally and constitutionally right,” he said.
“From what I’ve heard, (because I’m speaking as an individual now) the removal was a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal so, as far as I’m concerned, the President was carrying out a court order… that’s number one.
“Number two, the suspension could have been carried out in another manner by (Section 292 paragraph 1) of the Constitution which clearly gives the president the right to remove the Chief Justice if he is guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct.
“From what I can gather, this order of the Tribunal was before the court of Appeal order so obviously, it cannot affect something that has already been done”.
Onnoghen who is being tried over allegations of failing to declare his assets, was on Friday suspended as the CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the president, the development was based on the request of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, pending the completion of the trial.
Following the suspension, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed was appointed as the acting CJN.
Justice Tanko Mohammed who hails from Bauchi State is the most senior justice of the Supreme Court.