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Suspended Nigeria Chief Judge ordered to respond to corruption allegation

The Nigerian government has been accused of circumventing constitutional provisions for the discipline of judges

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A constitutional body saddled with powers to discipline erring judges in Nigeria has asked the country’s suspended chief judge, Justice Walter Onnoghen to reply allegations of corruption against him in seven days.

The National Judicial Council or NJC, after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, also urged acting chief judge, justice Tanko Muhammad to respond in same manner to two allegations filed against him. The petitions were filed by citizen-based organisations and a lawyer.

“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from fourteen (14) to seven (7) working days for the Hon. Justices to respond”, a statement sighted by News Central and signed by NJC Spokesman, Soji Oye said.

Nigerians were shocked last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of Chief Justice Onnoghen and swift swearing in of an acting judge. The action followed an earlier six-count charge of non-assets declaration against the embattled jurist filed on January 14, before a special court.

Onnoghen had been charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal or CCT with such issues as failure to declare Naira bank accounts and owning multiple domiciliary and foreign bank accounts with hundreds of thousands of dollars, contrary to constitutional provisions and code of conduct for public officials in Nigeria.

Buhari’s action led to an uproar with opposition politicians especially of the Peoples Democratic Party, lawyers, civil society organisations and many western diplomats issuing statements against the decision.

The Nigerian government was accused of circumventing constitutional provisions for the discipline of judges without referring the matter to the judicial council. They warned that the action was capable of upsetting the credibility of the February 16 presidential elections, which is less than two weeks away.

The government called the bluff of the opposition and diplomats. It warned against “foreign meddling” in its internal matters even as it clarified that the suspension of the chief judge was due to grievous corruption allegations and misuse of judicial powers to circumvent the law through the use of technicalities by Onnoghen, making the suspension inevitable, after obtaining an emergency court order from the CCT to stop him from ridiculing the judiciary.

In what looks like an oncoming tide that may sweep the country’s major judicial actors, the CCT Chairman Danladi Umar also had a petition filed against him at the NJC based on corruption allegations. “Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it”, the NJC added.

Until his suspension, Onnoghen was the head of the NJC. But as the body met at the emergency meeting, both the chief judge and the acting chief judge were asked to recuse themselves. 

The CCT had on Monday adjourned the case indefinitely after a Court of Appeal order, pending the determination of a case of lack of powers or jurisdiction, to prosecute the matter at the CCT.

An order by the country’s body of lawyers which asked for a boycott of courtrooms for two days to express grievances by legal practitioners against Buhari’s suspension of the chief judge remained unsuccessful across Nigeria on Tuesday. Many lawyers were seen in courts even as judges showed up to handle cases. Only a handful of protests were recorded in cities like Calabar, Abuja and Lagos.

Some lawyers said there was no need for protests directed by the Nigeria Bar Association as suspended chief justice Onnoghen had himself admitted in writing to the allegations wherein he said he “forgot” to declare the bank accounts and dozens of mansions.


The judicial council will reconvene on February 11 for a decision on  responses to the petitions.

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Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum

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Fallen Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was Sunday seen in public for the first time since being ousted, as he was driven in an armed convoy to the prosecutor’s office. The former strongman, who ruled his northeast African nation with an iron fist for three decades, was toppled on April 11 after weeks of protests against his reign.

Dressed in a white traditional robe and turban, Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to prosecutors’ office to face charges of alleged corruption.

Prosecutor Alaeddin Dafallah told reporters after Bashir left the office that the ousted president had been informed that he was facing charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”

Meanwhile, a top general from the country’s new ruling military council vowed that those who carried out a deadly crackdown on an iconic protest site that left dozens dead earlier this month would face the death penalty. “We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“Whoever committed any fault” will be held accountable, Dagalo added. Thousands of protesters who had camped outside Khartoum’s military headquarters for weeks were violently dispersed by armed men in military fatigues on June 3, according to witnesses.

More than 100 people were killed that day in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement, while the health ministry put the nationwide death toll at 61.

‘Regret’ for crackdown

Protesters and witnesses accuse the feared paramilitary group led by Dagalo, the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out the assault on demonstrators. Demonstrators and US officials have called for an independent probe into the crackdown.

On Thursday, the military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi expressed “regret” over the crackdown. But the council insists it did not order the dispersal, saying it had actually planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people are said to sell drugs.

“The planning of the operation of Colombia (area) was done by military and security authorities,” the council said in a statement late Saturday. “We assure you that the council is keen to investigate minute by minute facts through its investigation committee.”

Brigadier Abderrahim Badreddine, a spokesman for the investigative committee, told state television Saturday initial findings indicate that “officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces” had entered the sit-in without any orders from their superiors.

As calls for an independent probe grew, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Khartoum on Sunday where the military council said he met its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Bashir had swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. When he imposed a state of emergency on February 22 in a bid to quell protests that erupted in December over the spiralling costs, Bashir issued a decree making it illegal to possess more than $5,000 in foreign currency.

But in April, military council chief Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence after he was toppled. A team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds

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GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

GNA leader proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene

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The head of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord announced Sunday a new political initiative and elections in a bid to move the conflict-wracked country beyond eight years of chaos.

“I present today a political initiative for a way out of the crisis (involving) simultaneous presidential and legislative elections before the end of 2019,” GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a short speech broadcast by Libya al-Wataniya TV, without specifying a date for polls.

He proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene, and supporters of a peaceful and democratic solution” to Libya’s crisis. Sarraj’s GNA holds Tripoli, but strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army holds the east and much of the south of the country.

The LNA launched an offensive to take the capital in early April, but counter-attacks by forces loyal to the GNA have resulted in a stalemate on the southern outskirts. Sarraj said his proposed initiative would take place with support from the UN mission in Libya.

“Our army and the forces which support it have given a lesson in bravery to (Haftar) and to his militias,” Sarraj said. “His army has been broken, likewise that of his triumphalist entry to Tripoli that he presented as a two-day walk,” he added.

The two camps have so far refused to negotiate a ceasefire. The GNA is demanding that Haftar’s forces retreat to their previous positions, in the south and east. “We are confident that our forces are capable of repulsing the aggressor and of him sending him back to where he came from… victory was our ally, thank God,” Sarraj said.

He alleged that Haftar is seeking to “undermine the democratic process… and to re-establish a totalitarian regime; that of an individual and a single family”. Haftar meanwhile claims he is fighting “terrorists” and refuses to retreat.

Fighting since April 4 has killed 653 people, including 41 civilians, while more than 3,500 have been wounded — more than a hundred of them civilians — according to the World Health Organization.

The UN says more than 94,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people

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somalia journalists bash police

A Somali journalists’ association Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near parliament and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, stopped a group of reporters from international newsgroups.

“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.

Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.

“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” said the SJS.

It charged Somali police treat journalists “like criminals”, preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country. “This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia”.

It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.  

AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Shabaab attacks.

The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”

“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.

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