Acting CJN’s inauguration violated court order, party tells NJC

The Action People’s Party has asked the National Judicial Council to immediately suspend the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, and recommend him for immediate retirement.

The party made the call in a petition dated February 11, 2019 and addressed to the interim Chairman of the NJC, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.

The petition, which formed the basis for a fresh query the council issued to the acting CJN on Wednesday, was jointly signed by the party’s National Chairman and Deputy National Chairman, Imo Ugochinyere, and Kingsley Nnadi, respectively.

A copy of the petition said the party had instituted an action seeking declaratory as well as injunctive reliefs against the removal of Justice Walter Onnoghen as CJN as well as restraining Muhammad’s inauguration as acting CJN.

The petition reads, “The disturbing question which has damaged the sacred image of the judiciary is: why would the Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad quickly present himself to be sworn-in as the acting CJN in obvious connivance with the partisan desecration of the deepest soul of the institution of judiciary?

“Indeed, the despicable action of Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has destroyed the judiciary and today he is now seen as the face of partisan judicial outlaw and epitome of executive lawlessness who should not be associated with the sacred and hallowed institution of judiciary.

“In the exercise of your disciplinary powers, we request you to urgently suspend and recommend the immediate retirement of the Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.”

The NJC has said in its statement on Wednesday that a fresh petition was sent against Muhammad by the APP.

It said Muhammad was given “abridged seven days” to respond to the APP’s petition.

The NJC’s statement said the council took the decision to set up a five-man committee to investigate both Onnoghen and Muhammad after accepting “the result of the preliminary assessment of the petitions” written against the duo.

It said the council considered the “petitions to be worthy of further investigation.”

The statement reads in part, “In continuation of its emergency meeting, the National Judicial Council accepted the result of the preliminary assessment of the petitions against Hon. Mr Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, (GCON) and Hon. Mr Justice I. T. Muhammad, (CFR) that the petitions were worthy of further investigation and should not be terminated under Rule 17 of the Judicial Discipline Regulations of the Council.

“Consequently, the council constituted a five-member Investigation Committee pursuant to Rule 20 (1) of the Judicial Discipline Regulations under the chairmanship of Hon. Mr Justice S. A. Akintan, (CON), a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“A new petition against Hon. Mr Justice I. T. Muhammad, (CFR), by the Action People’s Party (APP) was referred to the Hon. Mr Justice for his comments within abridged seven days.”