The Presidency on Saturday told the U.S, EU not to interfere in its national affairs after suspending the country’s top judge just weeks from elections.
The United States, Britain and the European Union expressed concern on Saturday after Chief Justice Onnoghen was suspended three weeks before the presidential election, with the U.S. warning it could “cast a pall” over the vote in Africa’s most populous nation.
Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, who heads the Supreme Court, was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday over a six count charge relating to the non-disclosure of foreign currency bank accounts, in breach of rules for public officials.
Presidency spokesperson Garba Shehu, reiterated the readiness of the nation’s security forces to confront any plan or attempt to interfere with or disrupt the electoral process whether by “elements within or from outside the country”.
“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all,” he said.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections.”
President Buhari’s action has triggered condemnation from opposition parties who accused him of “an act of dictatorship” and mounting “a judicial coup”.
The former military ruler, 76, is seeking re-election at polls on February 16, against a backdrop of mounting concern about vote-buying and violence.
Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, who heads the Supreme Court, would rule on any legal challenge to the result.
Last week, U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen told a U.N. Security Council meeting on West Africa that the Trump administration is concerned about heightened insecurity in Nigeria, the inability of disabled and displaced people to vote, “and the risk that widespread vote buying could challenge the integrity of the electoral process.”
He expressed concern at reports of intimidation and partisanship by government security forces.
Cohen said the United States continues to support Nigeria’s goal of free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections “that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”