Over 300 Legal Practitioners with Placards defied the rains in Calabar on Tuesday to protest the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawyers from the three branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in the state comprising Calabar, Ikom and Ogoja, converged on the state judiciary headquarters at High Court complex on Mary Slessor Road before proceeding to the governor’s office on Diamond Hill to present a six-point demand to the governor Ben Ayade for onward transmission to the president.
Some of the placards carried inscriptions such as ‘No to Tyranny; Probe CCT Chairman, probe Tanko; we are not in a military era, let rule law prevail; NBA Calabar says no to Executive Rascality; Nigeria not a Banana republic; Justice Onnoghen we know, who is Tanko? among others.
The Vice Chairman of NBA, Calabar Branch, Julius Idiege, read the communiqué before it was presented to the state Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, who received it on behalf of the state Governor, Prof Ben Ayade. The communiqué issued partly read:
“We condemn in the strongest terms, and wholly reject the unconstitutional suspension of Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari, vide a black market ex parte order issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. “We are horrified that the Hon Justice Tanko Mohammed submitted himself to be sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, thereby subscribing to this abuse of the constitution and we find the actions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal perfidious and fraudulent.” “Unless this abuse of the constitution is redressed immediately, the rule of law will be in jeopardy and this will drive the country towards anarchy. Onnoghen’s suspension:
“The constitution of Nigeria must remain supreme and sacrosanct. We call on the president to immediately retrace his steps and reinstate Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen to his position as Chief Justice of Nigeria, and preserve the constitution which he swore to uphold.” They urged the National Executive Committee of the NBA to take all necessary steps in defence of the constitution and the rule of law.
Meanwhile, courts in the state were boycotted by lawyers throughout Tuesday. The boycott will continue on Wednesday as directed by the NBA at the national level. Receiving the communiqué on behalf of Prof Ben Ayade ,his Deputy,Prof Ivara Esu said that the government has noted the efforts of NBA and promised to hand over the communiqué to His Excellency . Ivara said: “Cross River is the home state of Justice Onnoghen. We have noted the efforts NBA has made and the reactions all over the country. I assure you that as soon as the governor comes back I will hand over the communique to him,” Esu said.