Nigeria: Onnoghen - Reactions By U.S., UK, EU 'Irresponsible' - El-Rufai

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai
6 February 2019

The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Elrufai, has described the reactions by the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) to the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, as "irresponsible."

President Muhammadu Buhari controversially suspended Mr Onnoghen on January 25 and swore in Tanko Muhammed as acting CJN. The development drew furore from across and outside Nigeria with the United States and the EU advising a review.

Before then, the U.S. and the UK had threatened to impose visa bans on any Nigerian who instigates violence during the general election or engage in rigging the elections.

But while speaking on the NTA Tuesday Special evening programme, Mr El-Rufai said it is a basic principle of international law that no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

He went further to accuse the U.S., UK, and EU of making statements without facts.

"We have seen from the three countries; the U.S., UK and EU in response to the suspension of the chief justice. Trying to link the suspension of the chief justice to the outcome of the elections is the most irresponsible piece of diplomatic mishap I have ever seen in my 59 years of living in Nigeria.

"I have read about international laws, I have seen how countries operate. Those statements were coordinated, they were based on no information at all and they were most irresponsible," the governor said.

The presidency had reacted to the statements of both the U.S. and the EU on the suspension of Mr Onnoghen.

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, said as much as Nigeria welcomes prevailing interests and partnerships for successful 2019 general elections, the government would not condone unfair interference in matters that are wholly internal.

Many stakeholders including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) had hailed what they described as the foreign nations' timely intervention.

But the presidency insisted that as a sovereign country, Nigeria deserves respect from other countries.

The federal government, however, pledged its commitment to a free, fair, credible and peaceful election. It said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is independent and has been offered the required support.

Mr Buhari while suspending the Chief Justice said he relied on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, an auxiliary judicial panel that addresses asset filings of public officials.

The decision is contrary to Nigeria's Constitution which says only the National Judicial Council could recommend sanctions against a federal judge.

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