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The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria 2019 General Elections has raised questions over the credibility of Nigeria’s 2019 general elections and the autonomy of public institutions in electoral and justice administration in the country following the sudden unilateral suspension of the Chief justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 16 presidential election.
The European Union in a statement narrated that the Union was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the 2019 general elections. The Union declared in a statement: “the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, on 25 January.
“With 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system.”
The EU stated that 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. 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, the EU noted.
The EU EOM, therefore, called on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.
The EU EOM assured that it will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfill its election-related responsibilities.