Again, Onnoghen may ignore CCT summon

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There are strong indications that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, will not honour the summon issued on him by the federal government for his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, over alleged false asset declaration.

The likely non-appearance, according to Blueprint findings, is in compliance with two separate orders of the Federal High Court which restrained both the federal government and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) from proceeding with the trial, pending the determination of all cases arising there from.

Also, a similar order by the National Industrial Court, restrained the CCT from going ahead with the planned trial.

Sources close to the CJN’s defence team, said, “our client, my lord CJN, will not appear because of the court judgements to that effect. Remember, the team raised some fundamental issues around jurisdiction and what have you.

“So, I can tell you without any iota of doubt that in line with the ruling, the CJN, out of respect for the rule of law, and not disrespect as some may want to believe, won’t appear, except such ruling is vacated.”   

Justice Onnoghen is billed to appear at the tribunal tomorrow, January 22.

But in a dramatic turn of event, he has been served with orders of court which barred him from appearing before the Danladi Yakubu Umar-led three-man tribunal until issues at the Federal High Court are resolved.

A Federal High Court Judge, Justice Evelyn Maha had issued the two separate orders which stopped the federal government and Onnoghen from proceeding with the trial, following two separate cases filed by two pressure groups.

The two groups, Incorporated Trustees of the Justice and Peace Initiatives and the Incorporated Trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management, had approached Justice Maha and prayed her to stop the trial for now until issues raised on the trial are resolved.

The judge, after listening to arguments canvassed by lawyers to the two groups, granted interim orders that parties in the matter should not take any further action.

Justice Onnoghen was to appear at the CCT for arraignment on January 14, but did not appear to answer to charges of non-declaration of his assets brought against him by the federal government, and instead challenged the competence of the charge against him as well as the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

The federal government is prosecuting the CJN on a six-count criminal charge bordering on non-declaration of his assets.

However, when the matter was called last Monday, Onnoghen was not present in court for the arraignment.

Eminent lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who led a team of about over 80 other SANs,  informed the tribunal chair, Mr. Yakubu, that the defendant had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the suit.

Olanipekun also told the tribunal that the defendant was not in court because he was not personally served with the summon of the tribunal.

But the prosecution counsel, Alhaji Aliu Umar, SAN, argued that summon  was served on the CJN since according to him, the registrar of the court informed him that the CJN directed his personal secretary, Sunday O. to accept service on his behalf.

After argument for and against, the tribunal adjourned the matter till January 22 for the arraignment.

Count one of the charge read: That you, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen CJN, GCON between June 8, 2005 to December 14, 2016 being a public officer, serving as a Judicial Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria failed to declare and submit a written declaration of all your assets and liabilities within the prescribed period of (3) months after being sworn-in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 8 day of June, 2005 and you thereby contravened the provisions of section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap 15 LFN 2004 and punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same Act.

In counts 2 to 6, Onnoghen, was accused of falsely declaring his assets by omitting to declare funds in his domiciliary accounts as well as an e- saving accounts both in local and foreign currencies, all in Standard Chartered Banks, Wuse, Abuja.

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