Onnoghen: Open Letter To NBA President, By Emmanuel Ogebe

My dear President Usoro, SAN

I write to you concerning the outrageous events in our nation, democracy and profession that threaten to plunge the nation into chaos.

Simply put the situations I am referring to you for review are thus:


The government has assaulted the judiciary and destroyed the rule of law on a multiplicity of levels too numerous to elaborate.

I will mention only the latest affront as time eludes one to catalogue the serial and flagrant disregard for court orders or the unprecedented and wholesale molestation of judges.

On Friday the government removed a constitutionally appointed head of a co-equal arm of government unconstitutionally and then appointed a new head of the judiciary unconstitutionally.

Below are the details of the self-incriminating and deeply indicting recent statements admitting to crass manipulation of the judiciary by the president.

“It is no secret that this government is dissatisfied with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused of the most dire acts of corruption, often on mere technicalities, and after quite a number of them have been convicted by the trial and appellate courts. Since there is nothing the Executive Arm can do after the apex court of the land has spoken on any matter, several of these individuals walk free among us today, enjoying what are clearly the proceeds of the corruption which for so long has defeated the efforts of this nation to develop and prosper.” – Buhari January 2019 (on punishing the CJN for not ruling the way he wants.)

Permit me another exhibit:
“Don’t talk even of the US Ambassador (Justice Nsofor.) That one he wrote a minority judgement on my behalf so I paid him back (laughs)”. – Buhari (on rewarding a judge for ruling the way he wants.)

The sum total of these two confessions made this month are that President Buhari is a vindictive, authoritarian autocrat who punishes judges who do not do his bidding and rewards those who do. His hatred for Chief Justice Onnoghen is predicated on this fact which is “no secret” and not really about asset declaration. Since he is “dissatisfied” and “there’s nothing the executive arm can do” (collective) he has done the worst which is to get rid of the “problem” Justice.

You will no doubt agree that it is highly unlikely that a corruption prosecution started by this administration would have reached the Supreme Court within 3 years. Justice Onnoghen has only been Chief Justice for less than 2 years.

A review of that time frame shows that the only notable such case would be your administration’s attempted trial, incidentally by the same CCT, of the senate president on asset breaches.

On appeal, Justice Onnoghen upheld the government’s position that the tribunal was duly constituted and remanded the senate president down for trial. President Buhari clearly was not upset at this ruling which favored him against his political opponent.

However when the matter came back on appeal subsequently, the Supreme Court ultimately resolved issues in favor of the senate president. This obviously drew the ire of President Buhari for which now Justice Onnoghen is paying the price by his own admission.

The question then arises, are the 12 lawyers in this government including the Vice President and Attorney General of the Federation party to the punishment and rewards of judges system based on their rulings as espoused by Gen Buhari and is this not itself the very essence of corruption?

Do these actions not only amount to manipulation and interference with the judiciary but as a dire warning to intimidate judges to vote pro regime?

In the profession we have what is called “forum shopping” or “jury shopping.” Your administration has introduced “Jurist shopping and dropping.”

President Buhari’s implicating remarks are very clear and explain why a cantankerous 84 year old retired judge rejected by the senate and before that the Supreme Court was foisted on the top diplomatic position in the world and more so why Justice Tanko Mohammed has been procured by the APC Government.


Principal actors in the Buhari administration perpetrated a hoax on the nation and our democracy and profession by executing a fake judgment to wit:

– The president executed the judgment of a court that did not sit; enforcing a prayer on a motion never moved; implementing a relief of suspension that was never ordered and on a party who was never served said order.

In view of the foregoing exercise in brazen criminality and fraud, I wish to ask that you refer the lawyers in this administration including the perpetrators of the faux court order for investigation and disciplinary action once established.

For avoidance of doubt, the court order that truncated the June 12, 1993 elections and precipitated national crisis was actually obtained in a court sitting. General Buhari’s Tribunal order is even worse as there was no known sitting but mere fabrication by a ghost court.

Nothing can be based on such a transparent fraud and everyone involved by commission or omission, complicity or complacency, aiding and abetting, before and after the fact must be held to account.

Thank you for your prompt and urgent attention.

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