The Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen to step down from office.
El-Rufai, who made his views known on a Channels Television Programme, “Sunrise”, said: ”All the arguments being made that the allegations against the CJN should first go to the National Judicial Council (NJC) are wrong.
“I presented a paper at the Bisi Akande Colloquium on restructuring. I believe that we should look at our federation. Constitutional restructuring is one thing, restructuring our minds to be objective about what is right is another.
“I am extremely sad about this Chief Justice matter; if I am the Chief Justice, and write and say, ‘yes I have these bank accounts but I did not declare them’, I will not even allow the CCB to file charges, I will resign there and then to protect the institution.
“The admission that I did not declare my assets, that infraction alone, is enough for him to step down and protect the institution. All these court orders and lawyers are not helping the judiciary or the legal practice and are not helping Nigeria.”
The governor said it was not obligatory for the President to know about the prosecution of any Nigerian, including the CJN.
He said: “Why should the President know about the prosecution of anyone? Let us please stop personalising institutions. Won’t you be worried if the President is worried about prosecution? Institutions should be allowed to function.
“I am the governor of Kaduna State. The constitution requires that I declare my assets before being sworn in. Also, the constitution states this specifically, in plain language. This is not law; we don’t need law to tell us this.
“I don’t have to know if the Attorney-General of Kaduna State goes and murder or rape someone, and the police arrest him; I don’t need to know. They should charge him to court. Institutions should be allowed to work, and we should stand up to protect the integrity of institutions.
“Saying that the President doesn’t know, I think it is a compliment to the president; it shows that he does not interfere with institutions and doesn’t get involved in it.
“What is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong; I think we should stand up for that, we should seize being ethnic and religious, otherwise this country will not go anywhere.
”The man has admitted that ‘I did not declare my asset, I forgot’. If the matter was simply that the Code of Conduct Bureau has made an allegation and filed charges in the tribunal, I will presume innocence, but I have seen a written statement by the Chief Justice saying that ‘…yes I have these accounts, yes I did not declare them, but I forgot’. Forgetting is not a defence in law.
“The constitution is very clear; if the matter has to do with Code of Conduct of public officers, the only court, the only tribunal vested with the power to consider the violations of that code is the Code of Conduct Tribunal. It can try anyone, including the President.
“The NJC is supposed to take petitions on the professional misconduct of Judges; if a Judge kills or steals, it is not NJC, it is the regular court. You cannot say the NJC is a self-appointed court, a special court that will first have to clear judges before they go to regular court.
”It is saying that Judges have immunity that the constitution has not contemplated. It is only the President and the governors that have immunity in the constitution.
“For me, that is not even the issue, the issue is this, the Code of Conduct for public office requires you to declare your assets – all of us, have you declared your assets? Yes! Have you declared all your assets? No, I have not! The Chief Justice has admitted it; his defence is ‘I have forgotten’, that is not a defence in law.”