By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, has directed that the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, should be served on him personally.
A three-man panel of Justices of the tribunal headed by Justice Danladi Umar further slated Tuesday next week for the CJN to appear before it to enter his plea to the charge bordering on his alleged refusal to declare his assets.
The tribunal chairman had at exactly 10am when the charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, was called up, demanded to know why the CJN was not in court and if he was served with the charge.
Responding, a former Commissioner of Justice in Kano State, Alhaji Aliyu Umar, who was enlisted by the Federal Government to lead the prosecution team, told the court that the CJN was served through one of his personal assistants.
“When we went to his house, he directed his personal assistant to collect the charge on his behalf. His personal assistant endorsed it, so he has been served”, Umar who led five other government lawyers, told the tribunal.
However, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who led 46 other Senior Advocates of Nigeria and 43 other lawyers, told the tribunal that the CJN had filed a motion dated January 14, challenging jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him.
He said: “My lord we are not just challenging jurisdiction, we are even challenging the jurisdiction of this tribunal to even sniff that charge”, Olanipekun submitted.
Olanipekun further challenged the competence of service of the charge, insisting that under sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, criminal charge ought to be personally served on a defendant.
Meanwhile, after a clerk of the Tribunal, following a query from the Chairman, confirmed that the charge was received on behalf of the CJN, by one Sunday O. Osai who was identified as his assistant, the prosecution counsel, applied for FG to be allowed to effect another service of the charge on Justice Onnoghen.
The prosecution however pleaded the court to direct that the charge should not be handed to another person aside the CJN.
Justice Umar subsequently adjourned the matter till next week Tuesday.
Aside allegation that he failed to disclose his assets as prescribed by law, FG, in the charge that was filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, equally accused the CJN of operating foreign bank accounts.
The prosecuting agency alleged that contrary to relevant laws regulating conduct of public office holders, the CJN, maintained a domiciliary foreign currencies account that comprised of Dollars Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account.
More details soon…