Published On: Tue, Jan 29th, 2019

Buhari Tears Senate Apart Over Onnoghen

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By Sadiq Umar – Amid controversy trailing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, the Nigerian Senate is now sharply divided on whether to seek legal interpretation of the actions of President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter.

Senators are divided along those that believed that the senate should proceed to the Supreme Court for the interpretation of Mr. Buhari’s power to suspend the CJN and those against the move.

Already, the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus has denied been part of a decision to proceed to the court against the president.

Earlier, the Presidency had summoned the senate APC caucus to a closed-door meeting with President Buhari in Abuja on Sunday.

A statement signed by Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, on Monday night, said at no time did senate met to take such decision.

Mr. Lawan’s statement came on the heels of announcement by Senate President Bukola Saraki, that the Senate had filed a suit at the Supreme Court to seek legality of Mr Onnoghen’s controversial removal by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The statement also noted that the Senate had shelved a plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

But Mr. Lawan, in a counter-statement, said the APC caucus dissociated itself from the legal action.

“It has come to the notice of the Senate APC Caucus that the Senate has approached the Supreme Court for the interpretation of the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen by the President Commander-ln-Chief of the Armed Forces,” the Senate Leader stated.

According to him, “the Senate never met to take such a resolution and at no time mandated anyone to approach the Supreme Court on this matter on its behalf.

“Consequently. the Senate APC Caucus dissociates itself from the said request for the legal interpretation of the suspension,” the statement reads.

However, in another statement, the Special Assistant to Mr Saraki on New Media, Olu Onemola, insisted that the Senate leadership met to take the decision.

He wrote “Please note: Issues like going to court on behalf of the Senate has never been a decision taken to the floor or plenary. It is a decision for the leadership of the Senate.

“The leadership consists of 10 members.

“The Senate President got the support or consent of a very good majority of the ten on the need to seek interpretation from the apex court.”

It would be recalled that Mr Buhari suspended Mr Onnoghen on Friday, citing an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Meanwhile, the Senate has shelved its scheduled resumption slated for Tuesday, January 29, 2019.

A memo to this effect was sent to the senators by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, who wrote:

“This is to inform all Distinguished Senators of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the resumption in Plenary scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, 29th January 2019 has been cancelled.

“The scheduled date of the resumption in Plenary earlier fixed for Tuesday, 19th February, 2019, remains, please.”

Although the Clerk did not state the reason for the postponement, it may have been necessitated by the Senate Leadership, which, instead, decided to approach the Supreme Court for further clarifications on whether President Muhammadu Buhari acted within his powers by suspending Justice Onnoghen.

The Senate had, in response to the outrage over the President’s action, decided to reconvene on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

The upper chamber will now resume plenary on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, the Clerk stated in the memo.

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