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Onnoghen and 2019 elections

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Onnoghen and 2019 elections
 

Everything started like an unconfirmed news synonymous with social media when on January 12, the news broke that the Federal Government has filed a six-count criminal charge against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja and was meant to be arraigned on the following Monday, January 14.

 

It, however, became reality , when later in the day, the six count charge as filed before the tribunal was made public.

The charge was sequel to a petition written by a Non Governmental Organization, “Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative”.

 

The petition, dated January 7, was received by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB on January 9 and entitled “PETITION ON SUSPECTED FINANCIAL CRIMES AND BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU REQUIREMENTS AGAINST HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE W. S. NKANU ONNOGHEN.

The petitioner had alleged that Onnoghen did not declare five of his domiciliary accounts, domiciled with Standard Chattered Bank.

The petition reads in part: “We write to bring to your attention serious concerns bothering on flagrant violations of the law and the Constitution of Nigeria by the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“Specifically, we are distressed that facts on the ground indicate the leader of our country’s judicial branch is embroiled in suspected financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

“The particulars of our findings indicate that: His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself, up to as recently as 10th August 2016 which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.

“To give specific examples, here are some instances of cash deposits by Justice Onnoghen: Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 each on 8th March 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account …;
“On 7th June 2011, two separate cash deposits of $5000 each were made by Justice Walter Onnoghen, followed by four cash deposits of $10,000 each;

“On 27th June 2011, Justice Onnoghen made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10,000 each on the following day, 28th June 2011;

“Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen did not declare his assets immediately after taking office, contrary to Section 15 (1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.”

The CCB on recieving the petition on January 9 proceeded to the tribunal on January 11 to file a six count charge .

The charge readas in part;

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON between 8th June 2005 to 14th December 2016 being a public officer serving as Judicial Officer in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a Justice of the Supreme Court failed to declare and submit a written declaration of your assets and liabilities within the prescribed period of three months after being sworn in as the justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 8th day of June 2005 and you thereby contravened the provision of section 15(1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 and punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same act.

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON being a public officer as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who is under a duty to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau on or about 14yh December, 2016 refused to declare a domiciliary (US Dollar) account No 870001062650 maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig) Ltd Wuse 2, Abuja which is being operated since 2011 and you thereby contravenes the provisions of section 15(2) read along with section 15(1) of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same act.

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON being a public officer as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who is under a duty to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau on or about 14th December, 2016 falsely declared your assets in your Assets declaration form CCB 1(aftwr you were sworn in as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria) by omitting to declare a domiciliary (Euro) No 93001062686 maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig) Ltd Wuse 2, Abuja which is being operated since 2011 and you thereby contravenes the provisions of section 15(2) read along with section 15(1) of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same act.

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON being a public officer as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who is under a duty to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau on or about 14th December, 2016 falsely declared your assets in your Assets declaration form CCB 1(aftwr you were sworn in as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria) by omitting to declare a domiciliary (Pound sterling ) No 285001062679 maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig) Ltd Wuse 2, Abuja which is being operated since 2011 and you thereby contravenes the provisions of section 15(2) read along with section 15(1) of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same act.

 

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON being a public officer as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who is under a duty to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau on or about 14th December, 2016 falsely declared your assets in your Assets declaration form CCB 1(aftwr you were sworn in as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria) by omitting to declare an e-Saver savings (Naira) account No 5001062693 maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig) Ltd Wuse 2, Abuja which is being operated since 2011 and you thereby contravenes the provisions of section 15(2) read along with section 15(1) of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the   same act.

“That you Justice Walter Onnoghen CJN, GCON being a public officer as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who is under a duty to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau on or about 14th December, 2016 falsely failed to declare declared your assets in your Assets declaration form CCB 1(after you were sworn in as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria) by omitting to declare a Naira account No 010001062667 maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig) Ltd Wuse 2, Abuja which is being operated since 2011 and you thereby contravenes the provisions of section 15(2) read along with section 15(1) of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act Cap C 15 LFN 2004 punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same act.

On January 14, the three man panel of the tribunal headed by Umar Danladi sat, to begin the trial ,but the matter could not go on due to the absence of the defendanf.

When the reason for his absence was asked for, counsel to Onnoghen, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) who led 47 other SANs raised the issue of service. He argued that the Practice Direction provides that a defendant should be served with the summons personally, but in the instant case, Onnoghen was not served with the summons personally, but rather same was served on the personal Secretary to Onnoghen.

Prosecution counsel had equally admitted that there was default in the mode of service. He, however, prayed the court to order another service on the defendant and that the service should be handed to him in his personal capacity.
The tribunal consequently granted the order and subsequently adjourned till January 22.

Meanwhile, as the tribunal was sitting on January 14, two different groups had in two separate applicarions approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja seeking to stop the trial. One Peter Abang had also approached the National Industrial Court , also seeking to stop the trial. Another suit was equally filed before an Abuja High Court.

The four courts in thier separate rulings made an interim order restraining the tribunal from further proceeding in the trial.

Also, a day to the next adjourned date, on January 21 , Onnoghen approached the Court of Appeal seeking to stop the trial.

When the matter resumed on January 22, defense team made frantic efforts to persuade the tribunal that based on the four different orders of the high court , trial in the matter be put on hold .

The tribunal, in ruling in the ratio 2:1 rejected the argument on ground that the orders of the Court was not binding on it. Danladi hinged his position on grounds. One was that the said courts are of co-ordinate jurisdiction and;two that the parties who filed the suit at the high court were not parties before him.

On the said day, the court consequently adjourned till January 28 to hear the motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

About 24 hours later, the prosecution later went back with an ex-parte application praying President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Onnoghen and appointment the next most Senior Justice of the court as the acting CJN .

When the parties returned the court of appeal, the court eventually made an order staying the proceeding of the tribunal pending the determination of a suit before it challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

However, a day after the Court of Appeal sitting, January 25, the unexpected happen, as President Buhari suspended Onnoghen and swore in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammadu as the acting CJN.

This, however, attracted outrage from several SANS, Politicians and the NBA. The NBA had even after called for an emergency meeting, where it ordered its members boycot court for two days.

When the tribunal resumed on January 28, defense team informed the it of the ruling of the appeal Court which granted a stay of proceedings of the trial. The tribunal however , based in the ruling of the Appellate Court adjourned indefinitely.

When parties returned to the court of appeal on January 30, the man panel of the Appellate Court led by Justice Abdu Aboki, reversed the order for stay and ask the tribunal to proceed with the trial.

The tribunal had since fixed February 4 to resume the trial.

 

Meanwhile , based on the controversies surrounding the suspension of Onnoghen, the National Judicial Council (NJC) called for an emergency meeting last Tuesday, wherein he queried both Onnoghen and Tanko and consequently gave them seven days in which to respond within seven days.

 

NewTelegraph 

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