The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday gave the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen and the one acting, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, a-week ultimatum to respond to the allegations of corruption and professional misconduct levelled against them.
Due to the gravity of the allegations, the NJC abridged the time and gave the accused persons one week instead of the usual 14 working days to respond to the allegations, an indication that they may be sacrificed to restore sanctity in the highly revered arm of government.
The council asked Onnoghen to explain why he did not declare all his assets and Mohammed why he submitted himself for appointment without the involvement of the NJC.The body, with the powers to discipline erring judicial officers, held the emergency meeting principally to consider petitions written against the two most senior judicial officers in the country. Since the two are incidentally involved in the crisis, they expectedly recused themselves from the meeting.
As a result, former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, was elected interim chairman to preside over the meeting.The next in rank at the Supreme Court, who incidentally is not a member of the NJC, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, could not be drafted into the meeting, since he may be the obvious beneficiary of the crisis.
If the council sanctions Onnoghen and Mohammed with dismissal, Rhodes-Vivour would automatically step in as the most senior justice of the Supreme Court and the NJC would recommend him to the president for appointment.