Nigeria rejects external interference in case of judge suspended from work before elections

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The Nigerian government has said it will not accept any outside “interference” after the European Union, the United States and Britain expressed concern over a decision by President Mohammed Bukhari last week to suspend Nigeria’s top judge before the February 16 presidential election.

The media reported that President Bukhari, seeking a second term, had suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen from work last Friday on charges of fraud in financial disclosure, drawing criticism both at home and abroad.

The opposition described the decision as a dictatorship and suspended its campaign for 72 hours in protest. The EU election monitoring team said the suspension of Onnoghen raised concerns about the fairness of the elections.

“The federal government is determined to ensure free and fair elections,” said Bukhari’s spokesman. “This government will not break the rules and will not allow interference in our affairs.”

“The government will reject any intervention or perception that reinforces concerns about the outcome of the elections,” he said in a statement hours after the EU, the United States and Britain expressed concern.

Onnoghen did not answer the charges and his lawyers say the court does not have the power to try him.

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