1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Section 292. (1)
A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances –
(a) in the case of –
(i) Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and President, Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.
(ii) Chief Judge of a State, Grand Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal or President of a Customary Court of Appeal of a State, by the Governor acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State,
Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct;
(b) in any case, other than those to which paragraph (a) of this subsection applies, by the President or, as the case may be, the Governor acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council that the judicial officer be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.
Based on the above constitutional requirements the president can only appoint or remove a CJN with a two third majority backing from the senate. The Suspension of CJN was not mentioned in the constitution.
Yes the CJN goofed and he should be held accountable but a procedure has been outlined in the constitution on how he should be held accountable. Why not follow the constitution? The offense was committed in 2016 and the entire process of his illegal suspension was done in less than a month in 2019 when the general elections are few days away without regard to due process. Several cases that preceded the CJNs case are still going through the system including an allegation against the CCB chairman accused of receiving bribes so why should the CJN be singled out with such speed not characterised by a government renowned for foot dragging in cases of corruption involving close allies like the grass cutter.
Political expediency i guess. The code of conduct has no power to recommend the suspension of the CJN when its jurisdiction has not been established . The NJC is the statutory body recognized by the constitution to do that. Even if the CCT convicts the CJN for breaching the code of conduct it will write the NJC who will recommend his removal after obtaining two third votes in the senate. Unless the constitution is amended, this is the only way to remove a CJN anything short of that is arbitrary and illegal. Those quoting GEJs removal of justice Salami must understand that his suspension was recommended by the NJC as stipulated by the constitution not an agency under the executive.Buhari has been accused of so many infractions in office yet he did not step aside. No arm of Government has the power to remove the head of another other arm according to the doctrine of separation of powers . The CJN or Senate president cannot suspend the president so how can the president be able to suspend the CJN or Senate president? Using this logic Saraki should have been suspended by the president during his CCT trial.
The rule of law and the constitution are bedrock of democracy and any deviation is dangerous no matter the motivation. What if a corrupt person becomes president and decides to unilaterally remove the CJN to support his corruption? The rules of law if followed will prevent anybody taking the system for a ride. This is non negotiable no matter who is president. GEJ removed justice salami based on recommendations of NJC as required by the constitution yet all men of goodwill condemned the political undertone related to salamis sack. Same principle that motivated my stand on salami applies to CJNs illegal removal.