The United Nations has condemned the President Muhammadu Buhari’s removal of former Chief Justice of Nigerian (CJN), Walter Onnoghen.
The body said the suspension broke the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.
“International human rights standards provide that judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence,” said Diego Garcia-Sayan, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, on Monday.
“Any decision to suspend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court,” he said in a statement.
Garcia-Sayan, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate legal and judicial independence, said dismissing judges without following legal procedures or offering a chance to contest the decision was incompatible with the independence of the judiciary.
Buhari suspended Walter Onnoghen on January 25 following an order by a tribunal on public officials’ conduct and replaced him with Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
But four courts superior to the tribunal had already ordered a stay of proceedings and the tribunal had previously said it lacked jurisdiction over cases involving judicial officers, Garcia-Sayan said.
The UN statement said some of the judges and the defence lawyers involved in Onnoghen’s case had been subject to serious threats, pressures and interference.
Meanwhile, the National Judical Council, NJC, on Monday issued a fresh query to the Onnoghen.
The body also set up a preliminary complaints assessment committee to review the responses given to it by Onnoghen, and the Acting CJN, Muhammad.