The Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria has lend its voice to the ongoing controversy surrounding the trial of Onnoghen CJN.
In a press release, the Association observed that the attitude of lawyers representing the CJN has thrown the public into speculations, uncertainties and confusion about our justice system.
They further expressed concern over the call by the NBA that lawyers should boycott courts. They describe the petition filed by Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN against the Acting CJN as “spurious”. That the suspension of justice Onnoghen was proper in view of section 231(4) of the constitution. They finally urge all the parties in the case to handle the matter with utmost caution and sincerity so that the integrity of the judiciary will not be prejudiced
The statement reads:
MUSLIM LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (MULAN)PRESS RELEASE
We have observed with great concern the unholy development as regards the friction between the executive and the judicial arms of the government which was precipitated by the attempted arraignment of the suspended Honourable CJN Walter Onnoghen on the 14th of January 2019 before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting at Abuja and we have found it expedient to make the following statements;
1. It is our observation that upon the institution of charges by the Federal Government of Nigeria against the suspended CJN at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the legal profession and the general public have been thrown into turmoil and confusion. There were uncertainties, speculations and confusion about the justice system and its dispensation in the country.
2. The situation became aggravated by the attitude of the lawyers involved in the matter especially those counsel who indulged themselves in the reprehensive act of forum shopping wherein they started obtaining various court orders from different courts of coordinate jurisdiction such as High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Federal High Court and even National Industrial Cour. The speed at which those orders were obtained made them suspicious.
3. This strange attitude of supporters of His Lordship, the suspended CJN, gives credence to some speculations that his Lordship may not want to be tried by the same system he superintends over. Forum shopping is a grave abuse of the judicial process which happily we know His Lordship, the CJN would not ordinarily support. Hence, we believe that he would do the needful to put this at rest.
4. On the allegations against His Lordship, it has been argued and correctly in our opinion that all those charges remain mere allegations until they are established beyond reasonable doubt before a competent adjudicator, however we must state that such an adjudication would only hold if the person alleged to have committed the wrong is willing to make himself available for trial. It is our view that all parties involved in this case should come out clean and be fair in their handling and resolution of the issues thrown up.
5. So far between the camp of the suspended CJN and the public there is a concern that the substance of the allegations against his Lordship is being sacrificed at the altar of legal technicalities and unnecessary sentiments displayed by sympathizers. This should not be so. The common concern of all discernible persons at this stage ought to be the attainment of what is best for our country. Naturally, this will entail doing that which nobility and the cause of justice demand of us.
6. The current display of legal gymnastics by the lawyers either for or against the trending questions relating to the CJN, has confounded numerous members of the public and they are now worried that the substance of the alleged misdeeds levelled against the suspended CJN are being swept under the carpet. The question being asked is whether the same treatment would have been meted out to another public officer of a lower status and less privilege facing the same accusations like that of the suspended CJN?
7. As part of its reaction to the unfortunate situation that is bedevilling the judiciary at present, the umbrella body of lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association to which we all belong in its recent resolution called on lawyers to boycott the court for 2 days. This resolution however, does not seem to enjoy the blessing.
8. However, we are not unmindful of the reason why the NBA called for the boycott but the point being made is that even where the suspension of the CJN was based on a void Court order we do not think that the solution lies in the boycott of courts. We believe that the best approach to a void Court order is to get it set aside by the same court which gave the order or a superior court.
9. From the look of things, it seems that the leaders of the Bar have chosen to look at the issue from the legal point of view only. However, every reasonable member of the Association is worried about the moral aspect of the whole scenario, after all, we pride ourselves as men of the Noble profession. We therefore call on NBA to ensure that the bar is intact and should not be allowed to divide over this transient issue. Our unity is our strength. Mulan solicits for continuous and undivided loyalty among all NBA members across the country.
10. On the recent emergency meeting of the National Judicial Council held on Tuesday the 29th January, 2019, we are appalled that the supervisory body has directed the Acting CJN to give his answers to a spurious petition said to have been written by Mr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN and a Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
11. Our source of worry is not that the NJC has no power to take such a step where there is a genuine reason for same, however, we feel that NJC being a composition of seasoned jurists and lawyers ought to have realized that such reference to the Acting CJN is utterly unnecessary and uncalled for in view of the constitutional provision contained in Section 231 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which granted the President the requisite power. We also note that the President has acted well in view of the circumstances that led to the swearing in of the Ag CJN moreso that a court order which has not been set aside, binds all persons affected by it even if the person believes it is void.
12. Finally, on our part we want to call on all parties involved to handle the matter with utmost caution and sincerity while upholding the rule of law and the integrity of the judiciary and at the same time ensure that justice is done notwithstanding who is involved.
LONG LIVE MULAN
LONG LIVE THE NBA,
LONG LIVE THE JUDICIARY
LONG LIVE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
Prof. F.A.R. Adeleke Ismaila Alaasa
President Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria Secretary General of the Association