Walter Onnoghen, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, on Friday opened up on why the Federal Government removed him from office in 2019 unceremoniously.
Onnoghen said he was removed from office due to rumours from the Executive that he had a meeting with former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
The former CJN said the rumour was thick and spread fast, but he decided not to react to it because he never travelled to Dubai nor held any meeting with anybody, including Atiku.
Speaking at a book launch titled ‘Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, Practice, Procedure, Forms and Precedents’, authored by a renowned legal luminary, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, in Abuja.
Onnoghen expressed surprise that though the Federal Government had all the machinery to investigate the allegation, it never did, but opted to unlawfully come after him and his office.
Onnoghen said the situation got to the peak when all of a sudden, his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was arranged, even when he had not been invited or accused of any wrongdoing.
He also lamented that democracy was dead in Nigeria without courageous judges.
He said: “Prior to my suspension, I was confronted with no allegation. There were rumours that I met with Atiku in Dubai. As I am talking here today, I have never met Atiku one on one in my life. As if that was not enough, I was also accused of setting free, high-profile criminals, whereas I ceased to be a High Court Judge as far back as 1978.
“In the Supreme Court, I did not sit alone. We sit in panels. In all these rumours and outright accusations, I was not given the opportunity to defend myself.
“Let me make it clear that the office of the CJN was not for Onnoghen, but for all Nigerians who had sworn to guide and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To say the least, the period of my ordeal was the darkest era in the history of the Nigerian judiciary
“As I have said severally, judicial officers must be courageous. And, I want to beg all serving judicial officers not to be discouraged by what happened to me in the hand of the Executive arm of the government.
“Emerging Nigerian judges should not go the direction of injustice because, without courageous judges and justices, Nigeria is doomed.
“Here, let me sound this note of warning that the appointment of judicial officers must never be allowed to be politicized, otherwise, democracy and democratic governance will be dead.
“During my tenure, the problem of Nigeria was not the Nigerian judiciary, but those who had no regard for the rule of law. We must therefore be committed to the rule of law and dispense justice without fear or favour.
“Truth stands, crush it, it will stand because it is truth.