Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Friday, March 19, opened up for the first time and revealed why he was unceremoniously removed from office in 2019 by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Onnoghen, who spoke at a book launch ceremony he attended with his wife, said he has booted out of office over a false allegation that he held a secret meeting with former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, prior to the 2019 general elections.
Atiku was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a major threat to the re-election bid of President Buhari who was the flag-bearer of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC. It will be recalled that President Buhari had on January 25, 2019, about 29 days to the presidential election, suspended Onnoghen from office as the CJN and swore-in the next most senior jurist of the Supreme Court, Justice Tanko Muhammad, to take over the leadership of the judiciary.
Onnoghen’s suspension came barely eight hours after he announced his decision to inaugurate judges that would preside over election petition tribunals. President Buhari’s action elicited varied reactions from both within and outside the judicial circles, with the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, describing it as a coup against the judiciary.
Meanwhile, over two years after he was removed as CJN and later convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on a six-count corruption charge the Federal Government preferred against him, Justice Onnoghen, on Friday, gave his own side of the story. He said the rumour about his alleged meeting with Atiku, gained traction around January 2019. Justice Onnoghen said though the rumour was brought to his attention, he however decided not to react to it since he never traveled to Dubai or had any form of meeting with anybody, including Atiku.