Iheanacho Nwosu, Paulinus Aidoghie and Fred Itua, Abuja
The division in the Senate has assumed a worrisome dimension, as senators elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), have rejected the decision of the upper legislative chamber to approach the Supreme Court to get interpretation on the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
In an unexpected move, the Senate, yesterday dragged Muhammadu Buhari to the Supreme Court. This is even as the Senate has adjourned the emergency plenary planned for today. The Senate would have taken a position on the issue and mandated the president to rescind the decision on the suspension of the CJN.
A statement from the media aide to Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the Senate is also seeking to know whether the powers of the upper legislative chamber were usurped by President Buhari.
The statement reads: “Earlier today (yesterday), the Senate filed a case in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, seeking its interpretation on whether President Muhammadu Buhari acted within the provision of the constitution in his suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Walter Nkannu Onnoghen or whether the action of the President does amount to usurpation of the powers of the Senate as provided for in Section 292 of the constitution.
“Following the filing of the case, the matter of the suspension of the CJN which is the main issue for which the Senate had planned to reconvene tomorrow, has become subjudiced.
“Therefore, in line with the standing rules of the Senate not to debate issues that are already pending before the court, the reconvening of the Senate tomorrow (today) has been put off. The previous adjournment of the Senate till February 19, 2019 stays.”
Announcing the cancellation of the planned emergency plenary, Clerk to the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, didn’t give reasons for the cancellation of the plenary. Instead, he said the earlier scheduled date of 19th of February, was still intact.
He said: “This is to inform all Distinguished Senators of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the resumption in Plenary Scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, 29”“ January, 2019 has been cancelled.
“The scheduled date of resumption in Plenary earlier fixed for Tuesday, 19th February, 2019, remains, please.”
In a switch reaction, members of APC caucus in the Senate, have distanced themselves from the court action taken by the Senate. It said it was not consulted and that no meeting of the leadership of the Senate was held where such a decision was taken.
Leader of the Senate, who doubles as head of APC caucus, in a statement, said: “It has come to the notice of the APC caucus that the Senate has approached the Supreme Court for the interpretation for the suspension of Justice Walter Onneghen by the President.
“For the records, the Senate never met to take such a resolution and at no time mandated anyone to approach the Supreme Court on this matter on its behalf.
“Consequently, the Senate APC caucus dissociated itself from the said request for the legal interpretation of the suspension.”
However, Daily Sun gathered that the emergency sitting was shelved by Saraki over fears that senators elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), could sack him.Currently, the APC maintains a slim majority in the Senate. It has 56 members, while the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 46. Other political parties have 7.
Earlier yesterday, APC senators had a closed door meeting with the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole at the party’s headquarters. Details of the meeting were not made public.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria , Walter Onnoghen was not targeted at 2019 general elections just as it declared that the action of President Muhammadu Buhari was in line with the law.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed also explained that the case was not referred to National Judicial Commission (NJC) as being questioned by some Nigerians because the matter did not bother on professional misconduct by the CJN.
He contended that the Code of Conduct Bureau had overriding powers on matters concerning assets declaration . The Minister spoke at an interactive session with newsmen in Abuja. He submitted that even CJN had stressed this fact in his judgements in the past.
He said: “As for those who argued that the CCT is wrong in ordering Justice Onnoghen’s suspension, are they aware that Justice Onnoghen himself disagreed with them? In the judgement I referred to earlier, he wrote:
“The Tribunal to the exclusion of other courts is also empowered to impose any punishments as specified under sub-paragraphs (2) (a), (b) & (c) of paragraph 18 as provided in sub-paragraphs 3 and 4 of paragraph 18 while appeals shall lie as of right from such decisions to the Court of Appeal.”
He stressed “In essence, the CCT is right to have directed Justice Onnoghen’s suspension, and the President did the right thing by acting on the orders of the CCT. “
In another development, the Federal Government, has said that the statements by the United States (US) of America, the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) on the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, were prejudicial.
The government also said the statements signified alignment with the opposition and endorsement of its position that the ruling party, and by extension, the Federal Government of Nigeria, is working on rigging the forthcoming elections in Nigeria.
In a statement by the spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, George Ehidiamen Edokpa, the government stated that the statements were inimical to the wellbeing and development of Nigeria, given their nuisance value of promoting sectional and religious divide in the country, anarchy and retrogression.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria notes with deep concern, statements made by representatives of foreign governments and international organizations resident in Nigeria, notably the Embassy of the United States of America, the High Commission of the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union Election Observer Mission, regarding the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), which demonstrate serious and unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Nigeria.