Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari only knew of the trivail of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, on Saturday, 24 hours after court papers were served on him.
Onnoghen was served arraignment notice of Friday (Jan.11) to apply in court on Monday, January 14.
The VP expressed sadness over the development.
Onnoghen is facing a two-count charge on allegations of false and non-asset declarations at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the 2019 Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) conference on Wednesday in Abuja, said that President Muhammadu Buhari had no prior knowledge of the arraignment.
The theme of the conference is “Free Press and Objective Reporting in the 2019 Election Year.”
According to Osinbajo, Buhari’s approach is that institutions should do their work.
“I can tell you for a fact that he did not even know about this until Saturday evening. He did not even know that there will be any kind of arraignment until Saturday evening.
“He has said categorically, do not interfere with whatever institutions are doing; sometimes, it has consequences such as we have today; such that people say how can such an important person be subjected to a trial without the federal government?
“But I can tell you without any equivocation whatsoever that he was not even in the know because it is a specific instruction that he gave.
“So , even where somebody else calls a public officer such as Ibrahim Magu of EFCC and says something or the other, he will say `no, no, no, Mr President has said I can do my work.
“My take is that I would rather not have a situation where senior members of my profession are being tried for an offence; certainly, I will rather not have that kind of situation.
“So, I do not feel particularly good about it; as a matter of fact, I feel very sad; that it is going on at all, that is my position.’’’
Osinbajo tasked online publishers to go after details and check the facts before publishing; warning that online news was losing credibility.
The Vice President said elections had heightened ethnic and religious tensions and tended to threaten and challenge Nigeria’s unity and security.
“So, it is even more so, the case today that we just must be more responsive because anybody on their beds can launch a website, post images from anywhere in the world and tell whatever story he wishes.
“So, the online publisher is essentially in a poorly regulated space and can publish practically anything, even outright falsehoods.”