Nigeria's Buhari under pressure over judge suspension

Onnoghen's lawyers deliberated at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on January 22

His main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, 72, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, suspended his campaign for 72 hours in protest at Onnoghen's removal.

Global 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".

Hassan said the President was aware that he had no such powers on the Onnoghen case, but justified his action by claiming he was obeying a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), before which Mr Onnoghen is standing trial.

Buhari, who came to power in 2015 on a pledge to fight corruption, is seeking a second term.

The initial charges against Onnoghen, reportedly made by a former spokesman for Buhari, and the speed with which he was brought to court has dominated headlines in Nigeria for days.

Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Abuja-based Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, said Buhari had "violated the constitution".

"I just hope it's not true", said Paul Usoro, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association.




"The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed", said a statement from the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM).

"Nigeria is a democratic state governed by the constitution and the law and Nigerians will never allow anybody to appropriate rulership to himself outside the dictates of the law", Ologbondiyan said.

It was observed that unlike the custom where justices of the Supreme Court attend such functions with the CJN, only one of the Supreme Court justices, Justice Sidi Dauda Bage, joined the Acting CJN, Justice Mohammed on the court podium.

"They all have different roles to play in that process, " he said. "They know that Nigerians have rejected them because they have failed in the past", he said.

London and Washington this week threatened consequences for anyone involved in electoral fraud or violence, including the refusal of visas.

Saraki has accused the government of targeting him because he was not its first choice as leader of the upper house of parliament.

Onnoghen is from Cross Rivers state in the Christian-majority south, while Muhammad is from the northeastern state of Bauchi.

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