By Femi Adeniyi
Law courts are globally pre-sumed to be temples of justice where impartial judgements are dispensed. The least that could ever be expected from any government is to deliberately resort to using the instrumentality of law to discredit perceived political opponents, as well as dissenting voices.
News broke out early this year that Justice Walter Onnoghen, who has now been suspended as the Chief Justice of the Federation, had failed to declare his assets and maintains bank accounts in foreign currencies and equally made efforts to obstruct justice. The Nigerian media space and particularly the social media were awashed with allegations that Onnoghen had 55 undeclared buildings as well as millions in local and foreign currencies.
The quantum of opprobrium and vilifications vented on the person of Onnoghen was enough to have caused a deeply emotional trauma for any human being. At the speed of light, the man was suspended, replaced with Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal with the expectations that a truck load of damning evidence would be brought before the tribunal.
In the course of the trial, the undeclared 55 buildings and millions of dollars and pounds alleged to be in the five accounts of Onnoghen suddenly disappeared into the thin air. Surprisingly, the bank Relationship Manager where the five accounts of Onnoghen are domiciled told the Code of Conduct Tribunal that the man is still servicing a loan facility of $500,000 which he obtained with his investment in bonds and other investment.
The witness further disclosed that as at December 2018, balance in one of the naira accounts of Onnoghen was N2.6million while the other was N12.8million. She also revealed that the balance of his euro account as at December 2018 was €10,187, while the pounds Sterling accounts as at December 2018 had a balance of 13,730 pounds and the dollar account as at January 2019 was $56, 878. The banker also informed the court that Onnoghen never operated a foreign account as the five accounts were naira and domiciliary accounts.
Consequently, the prosecution hurriedly closed its case after calling only three out of the six witnesses earlier lined up. On the other hand, the defence team of Onnoghen immediately filed a no case submission having come to the assumption that the charges against the suspended CJN had fallen like a pack of cards.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki was made to go through the same tortuous and frustrating phantom trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. At the end of the agonising trial that went up to the Supreme Court, a five -man panel of the apex court, led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad, unanimously upheld the appeal of Saraki and dismissed the remnant three counts charge preferred against the Senate President. As a matter of fact, both the Code of Conduct Tribunal which initially dismissed all the charges against Saraki and the Supreme Court declared that the evidence led by the prosecution was entirely hearsay.
Dr. Doyin Okupe appears to be in similar situation as he is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The man had been detained for weeks by the anti-graft agency and also subjected to media trial in which he was accused of receiving N 750m from then-National Security Adviser, Col. Dasuki, ‘for doing nothing’. Meanwhile, such a huge figure was never mentioned when Okupe was arraigned in court. Okupe was said to be only getting #10m on monthly basis which was later reduced to #5m .
This monthly subvention was intended to be used to run the newly created office of The Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs. Out of the monthly subvention, he, according to him, made the under listed payments: salaries of 23 staff, newspaper publications and adverts, press conferences, research on public perception polls, sponsored weekly programmes on television and radio, travels amongst other activities. The fate of the former presidential aide may have been for belonging to the opposition party.
What about Activist Deji Adeyanju who was taken to the level of imprisonment. The young man was made to languish in Kano prison for an alleged offence he was said to have committed almost a decade ago, for which he had been acquitted and discharged by a Federal High Court.
Many Nigerians still believe that what the suspended CJN particularly deserves at this time is immediate lifting of his suspension as the Chief Justice of the Federation as well as public apology.
*Adeniyi is a Lagos based public affairs commentator