Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa, Tony John, Port Harcourt and Job Osazuwa
Governors from the Niger Delta region, rose from an emergency meeting yesterday and launched a broadside against the President Muhammadu Buhari led-All Progressives Congress (APC) saying the government has no regard for the people of the region.
They also raised the alarm over alleged arms build-up in Niger Delta states by APC leaders in the region with the intent to cause mayhem and a general breakdown of law and order during the elections.
The meeting called at the instance of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State was attended by Nyesom Wike, Ben Ayade and Emmanuel Udom of Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom, respectively.
The governors in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting noted that “the attempt to drag the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the judiciary”
The said while the disciplinary procedure for any erring judicial officer is clearly spelt out in section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution ”President, Muhammadu Buhari has a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend our democracy”.
The governors said the planned arraignment of the CJN is a pointer that Buhari has no regard for the Niger Delta region.
“Therefore, we consider this step, which is directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region, as totally unacceptable as it is reflective of the South South story of endless marginalisation and intimidation. The unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement is still very fresh. We note that the unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law. It is a fact that this administration has a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders. We expect President Buhari to know that democracy cannot survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution” the communiqué reads in part
The governors noted that development at the Supreme Court “is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.“
‘‘The action undermines confidence not only in the judiciary but also the electoral process that has already commenced, in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication”.
They declared that “President Buhari should know that the continuous assault on critical institutions of state is a defining feature of a dictatorship” stressing that the “President is obliged to live up to his word that he is a born again democrat, as he assured Nigerians in 2015”.
They therefore called on President Buhari to “condemn without any equivocation, this assault on the CJN and the judiciary especially coming after similar assaults on the National Assembly, to save the country from this embarrassment and global contempt”.
The Niger Delta governors also called on the CJN to ignore the so-called Court summon from the CCT and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters.
They threw their weight behind the fight against corruption noting however that “such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law”.
Meanwhile, Governor Wike has said Nigerians will resist any attempt by APC-led Federal Government to truncate the nation’s democracy.
Wike spoke yesterday, during an interdenominational service to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Rumuapara Deanery, Port Harcourt.
The governor said the illegal actions of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are pointers to the fact that he might not willingly hand over after he suffers defeat in February.
He said the alleged charges concocted by the Buhari administration against the CJN are aimed at frightening the judiciary, ahead of the planned manipulation of the polls.
Wike said the charges against the CJN were targeted at the Niger Delta, same way they muzzled the former president Goodluck Jonathan.
“Since 1960, when Nigeria gained independence, for the first time in 2011, a Niger Delta person became the president. The entire country ganged up against him. They gave excuses and denied us a second term. We did not fight. We did not shed blood. He said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and they called him a weak man.
“Since 1960, no Niger Delta person has been the CJN. When it came to Onnoghen’s time to be appointed the CJN, politics came in. They were not willing to appoint him. It was God that created the circumstances. The president was sick and was flown out. That was how Onnoghen became the CJN.
“Now, because they believe the Niger Delta is not part of this country, they have come again with all kinds of stories. They think they are talking to small children. They fabricated stories and said he did not declare his assets in 2011. We must know whether or not we belong to this country. Enough is enough. I have never seen people who are so desperate to cling to power.
“When they attacked the judiciary, I raised the alarm. I told them what they were doing is part of their future plan. Unfortunately, Nigerian Bar Association chickened out and gave out their judges. Not knowing that the lion is still waiting somewhere to complete the assignment.
“They have Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies. They have plotted how to rig the elections. But, they have not been able to gag the judiciary.
“In order for them to consolidate in their rigging machinery, they want to gag the judiciary. What they want to do is to intimidate the judiciary.”
Wike expressed surprise that the Attorney General of the Federation would be used by the federal government to concoct illegal charges against the CJN.
“They know and the law is clear that you cannot try any judge except the National Judicial Council approves.”