Onnoghen: NJC makes final recommendation, writes Buhari

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The National Judicial Council has stated that it had reached decisions on the petitions written against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, and the justice acting in his stead, Tanko Muhammad.

The decisions have been communicated to President Muhammadu Buhari for action, the council said Wednesday.

Onnoghen is accused by the Code of Conduct Bureau of not declaring all his assets as a public official, and is standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the alleged offence.

Separately, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accuses Onnoghen of receiving bribes in money and gifts from lawyers, and receiving illicit payments from public funds.

The embattled CJN has denied all charges.

In a written submission to the NJC Wednesday, Onnoghen said the allegations were baseless, and accused the EFCC of ignorance, and attempting to tarnish his image.

The NJC also received petitions against Muhammad who is accused of allowing himself to be used as an acting CJN after the controversial suspension of Onnoghen by President Buhari in January.

The suspension, only the second in the history of the nation’s judiciary, was widely criticised as unconstitutional as CJN can only be removed with the approval of the Senate.

The NJC reconvened Wednesday in an emergency meeting to consider the report of a five-member committee constituted to investigate the allegations.

A spokesperson for the council, Soji Oye, said the NJC decided that the allegations relating to assets declaration that were levelled against Onnoghen were “subjudice” and, therefore, abstained from considering them.

He said the council “reached a decision on the petitions written by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others and conveyed its decision to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.”

Oye said the council also resolved that by the nature of the decision reached, it would be inappropriate to publicise it before conveying it to Buhari.

Onnoghen closes defence

The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Wednesday, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja, closed his defence in his ongoing trial on the charges bordering on assets declaration breaches, after calling his driver of 20 years as his first witness.

Lead counsel to Onnoghen Chief Chris Uche told the court that after taking a deep consideration, the defence closes its case.

“Pursuant to paragraph 14 of the Practice Direction of the CCT, we will be applying to file our final written addresses,” he said, and asked the court to give the counsel in the matter 14 days within which to file in their written addresses.

He also applied to be obliged with the proceedings before the tribunal.

The prosecution led by Aliyu Umar, also prayed the court to be accord counsel enough time in order to file their own written address.

“Because time for filing of written address is not expressively provided for in the Practice Direction, that makes it a matter of discretion of the court,’’ Umar said.

However, the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, said the tribunal had given the defence three working days, from April 4 to April 8 to file their address, adding that the prosecution should file their address from April 9 to April 11.

Onnoghen’s 60-year-old driver, Lawal Busari, was presented to the tribunal as his first defence witness following the March 29, ruling of the tribunal dismissing his no-case submission.

When Busari entered the witness box, the tribunal issued an order of subpoena, on a director at the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mrs. Theresa Nwafor, to appear as the suspended CJN’s next witness on Wednesday.

This followed an earlier oral application by Onnoghen’s defence lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, on Monday.

The lead prosecuting counsel, Umar, did not oppose the application for the subpoena.

In a bench ruling, the tribunal chairman ordered the issuance and service of the subpoena on Nwafor directing her to appear at 10 am on Wednesday.

Asked by the tribunal chairman, Awomolo said during the Monday’s proceedings that the defence had proposed to call “two or three witnesses for now.”

With Busari’s testimony concluded on Monday, it was not clear if the defence would close its case after Nwafor’s evidence on Wednesday or whether the suspended CJN himself would testify.

Testifying earlier, Busari, who said he was the chief driver/mechanic at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, said Onnoghen submitted his assets declaration form in 2010.

This was contrary to one of the six counts preferred against Onnoghen that he did not declare his assets between 2005 and 2016.

Led by Awomolo, Busari, who gave instances of how he had been well-treated by Onnoghen, said the suspended CJN obtained his assets declaration form from the Asokoro office of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja, on July 28, 2010, and submitted same after completing it on November 4, 2010. (NAN)

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