A United Nations expert has weighed in on the recent suspension of Nigeria’s chief judge, Walter Onnoghen.

The most senior judge was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari last month over alleged non-declaration of his assets.

The UN expert, Diego Garcia-Sayán said in a statement on Monday that the suspension broke international human rights standards on independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

“International human rights standards provide that judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence,” said Garcia-Sayan who is the U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

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“Any decision to suspend or remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an independent authority such as a judicial council or a court.” 

Garcia-Sayan, who is mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate legal and judicial independence, said dismissing judges without following legal procedures or offering a chance to contest the decision was incompatible with the independence of the judiciary.

Recall that President Buhari caused uproar over breach of the constitution when he suspended Onnoghen on January 25, 2019 and immediately named as his replacement Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, who is from Bauchi State.

The President explained that he removed Onnoghen based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23, 2019 over allegations that the CJN failed to declare his assets.

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