Nigeria's Buhari suspends chief judge, drawing opposition ire before election


Justice Onnoghen

Worldwide pressure mounted on Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday after he suspended the country's top judge just weeks away from elections, prompting claims from opponents and civil society groups of an attempted judicial "coup". It urged authorities to quickly resolve the crisis that could undermine the credibility of the February 16 vote.

In separate statements, the countries said the action of Buhari could have effect on the general election.

Shehu said the federal government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections and a peaceful Nigeria.

"Situation Room also calls on the National Assembly to urgently reconvene in an emergency session and provide needed legislative response to this blatant challenge to our Constitution and democracy", read the statement that was signed by convener of the CSOs, Mr.

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Using similar language, the Nigerian Bar Association - the umbrella body for lawyers - said Buhari had mounted an "attempted coup against the Nigerian judiciary".

Some Nigerian elections have been marked by violence. "It is quite clear that the Senate itself cannot initiate that address; there is only one person who can do that and that is the President".

The chief justice, Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, faces trial on charges of allegedly failing to declare his assets.

The judge had admitted a failure to comply with assets declaration requirements, he said, adding: "The suspension is morally justified and legally justified".

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Nigerians have pointed out that the suspension occurred shortly before the chief justice was to swear in members of various election petition tribunals.

Buhari's top election challenger, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, accused Buhari of attempting to affect the outcome of the presidential election. CJN refers to the chief justice of Nigeria. Onnoghen's side has argued that the charges lack merit.

"The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room condemns the action of President Muhammadu Buhari purporting to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen and replacing him with an acting Chief Justice".

In addition, "the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN's personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law", Buhari said in a statement on Friday. Muhammed, like the president, is from Nigeria's largely Muslim north while Onnoghen is from the largely Christian south.

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