* Says Rivers major reason for clampdown on judiciary
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has declared that the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, is the conclusion of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government’s hijack of the judiciary. Wike said the federal government was trying to intimidate the judges of the Court of Appeal into giving a legal stamp to the suspension of the CJN. The governor alleged that Rivers State was a primary reason for the intimidation of the judiciary, stressing that the appellate court is being put under pressure to reverse judgements against the APC in the state.
Speaking at Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, during a courtesy visit by representatives of the National Executive Committee of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigeria, Wike stated that if Nigerians allowed criminal actions to succeed, then they should brace up for the death of an independent judiciary. He said there must be a sustained national resistance to reverse alleged impunity of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, “The suspension of the CJN is unfortunate. I raised an alarm when the federal government tested the waters by going to abduct judges in the midnight. I knew what the federal government intended to achieve. The whole essence was to put the judiciary in their pocket.
“The then NBA leadership played into their hands. They allowed politics and religion to becloud their sense of patriotism. It is not the removal of the CJN that is the issue. There is no more judiciary. No judge will henceforth deliver contrary judgement based on law against the federal government.”
The governor said the challenge before of Nigerians was to rise up in defence of the country’s democracy and judiciary.
“Beside condemnation, concrete steps must be taken to ensure that they change their minds. There is no way that Satan can change his mind by mere statements,” he said.
The governor said the script of the Buhari administration was to create a situation where they can easily destroy judges through flimsy allegations and illegal actions.
“This unconstitutional action of the president has several negative ramifications. A governor who hates his State Chief Judge can concoct a petition and unilaterally remove him,” he said.
Wike said Rivers State was the prime target of the Buhari administration, alleging that the new CJN and other judges are under instructions to upturn judgements of courts in states where the APC is in intra-party crisis.
According to the governor, “The Minister of Transportation told his party men that Buhari will use all forms of illegality to achieve his aim. The president wants to act against states where the party is having crisis.
“The whole thing is because APC has crisis in Rivers State. Just because of that, you destroy the whole institution. They want another CJN that will upturn everything. These are the type of actions that generate insecurity.”
He said if Buhari got away with illegal actions against the constitution, he would go for a third term.
Wike stressed that if the removal of the CJN succeeded, Nigerians should bid credible polls farewell, as the federal government could unilaterally sack the National Chairman of INEC over any flimsy excuse.
Wike said the next victims of intimidation would be the media, noting that media proprietors would be hounded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and compelled to dish out lies and half-truths.
Earlier, the outgoing president of FIDA, Mrs Inime Aguma, said the removal of the CJN might lead to a national crisis that would negatively affect women and children. FIDA called on the federal government to have a rethink on the illegal removal of the CJN.