Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to step down to protect the institution he represents.
He said these when he appeared on Sunrise, a Channels TV programme, yesterday.
The governor said the CJN’s excuse that he forgot to fill the Assets Declaration Form, cannot be an excuse in law and added that the right place to try him is at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). El-Rufai, however, faulted South South governors for backing the CJN on ethnic basis without addressing the issue at hand.
“What is worrying to me is that, one, all of a sudden, we have no regard for institutions; political parties are getting involved in issuing statements. My colleagues–governors, who ought to know better are issuing statements based on where the chief justice comes from. That is wrong. That is sad.
“Leaders should advance the course of institutions and unite us. You cannot say that ‘he is my kin, so, he should be let go.’ This is the attitude in Nigeria that has the capacity to destroy the country. If Babachir Lawal, as the secretary to the government of the federation, was investigated, and North East governors met and issued a statement that ‘yes, he has done that but he is from North East and should be left to go, where will Nigeria be? If we continue to apply these standards, what if South West governors met, and said, ‘well former Finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, made a mistake and presented a fake certificate, but, she is from the South West, so, she is immune from being asked to resign, what will Nigeria be like?
“My concern is that Nigerian elite should have a consensus about the sanctity of institutions. We should all protect our institutions even when they seem to be against us. All the arguments being made, that the allegations against the CJN, that he should first go to the National Judicial Council (NJC), were wrong.
“I am extremely sad about this chief justice matter. If I were the CJN, and I wrote and said, ‘yes, I have these bank accounts but I did not declare them,’ I will not even allow the CCB to file charges, I will resign there and then; to protect the institution. The admission that ‘I did not declare my assets,’ that infraction alone, is enough for him to step down and protect the institution. All these court orders and lawyers are not helping the Judiciary or the legal practice and are not helping Nigeria.”
On allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari was in the know of the CJN’s botched Monday arraignment at the CCT, the governor said: “Why should the president know about the prosecution of anyone? Let us please stop personalising institutions. Won’t you be worried if the president is worried about prosecution? institutions should be allowed to function.
“I am the governor of Kaduna state, the Constitution requires that I declare my assets before being sworn in. Also, the constitution states this specifically, in plain language. This is not law, we don’t need law to tell us this.
“Saying the president doesn’t know, I think it is a compliment to the president; it shows that he does not interfere with institutions and doesn’t get involved in it. What is right is right and what is wrong, is wrong, and I think we should stand up for that, we should seize being ethnic and religious, otherwise, this country will not go anywhere.”