WASHINGTON, D.C., February 22, 2019 – The American Bar Association expresses its hope that Nigeria’s 2019 elections on Saturday will be credible, fair, free and transparent. The ABA is concerned about recent events that could undermine the country’s rule of law and calls for calm as Nigerians prepare to go to the polls.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension during this election period of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, the official responsible for overseeing the election, is troubling. The independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers are essential to ensuring Nigeria’s adherence to the rule of law. The basic precept of checks and balances requires that an action with such monumental consequences be accomplished strictly and unambiguously in accordance with the processes and procedures of the governing law. Failure to observe the basic precepts of checks and balances could raise questions about the legitimacy of the outcome of the forthcoming election.
The U.N. Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary assign all governments the duty to ensure the independence of the judiciary and to guard against inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process. The ambiguous circumstances of Chief Justice Onnoghen’s suspension appear to be in breach of the provisions of the U.N. Basic Principles governing the grounds and process for the removal of a judge.
On the eve of the largest election in Africa’s history, the ABA calls upon President Buhari, the Nigerian government, and all stakeholders to respect the rule of law, commit to violence-free, fair elections, and exercise restraint throughout the entire process.
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