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EU, US, Britain concerned over suspension of Nigeria’s CJ

January 27, 2019

LAGOS: International pressure was growing Saturday on Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari after the EU, the United States and Britain questioned his decision to suspend the country's top judge.

All three statements expressed concern at the timing and manner of the action, coming just weeks before presidential and legislative elections set for February 16. Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen would have ruled on any dispute in the elections. But on Friday Buhari suspended him, pending the resolution of a corruption trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

He said he took the decision in compliance with a ruling by the tribunal -- a ruling that Onnoghen is challenging.

"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). "The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice," it added. "The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have," it added. Buhari, who came to power in 2015 on a pledge to fight corruption, is seeking a second term.