By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The embattled former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja, adducing 16 grounds why his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, should be vacated.
Onnoghen, maintained that the Mr. Danladi Umar-led CCT panel erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice against him, when it failed to decline jurisdiction to entertain the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
He further contended that the CCT Chairman ought to have recused himself from presiding over his trial.
Besides, the former CJN, in his notice of appeal that was sighted by Vanguard last night, urged the Court of Appeal to declare that the charge against him had become academic.
In his seven-point reliefs, Onnoghen, applied for an order setting aside his conviction, as well as quashing the order for forfeiture of his assets to FG.
More so, the convicted ex-CJN, urged the appellate court to discharge and acquit him of all the charges FG levelled against him.
Listing some of the particulars of error in the CCT’s verdict, Onnoghen, argued that he was at the time the charges were filed against him on January 11, a judicial officer and was therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of the lower tribunal.
“0n the authority of Nganiiwa v. FRN (2018) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1609) 30: at 340. 341 only the National Judicial Council has the power to discipline the Appellant for misconduct and not the lower tribunal.
“The lower tribunal had in the case of FRN V. Sylvester Nwali Nguta in charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2017 delivered on 9th January, 2018, affirmed the position of the Court in FRN Nganjiwa v. FRN and dismissed the charges and acquitted and discharged Justice Ngwuta being a Judicial Officer subject only to the discipline of the National Judicial C0uncil.
“The lower tribunal has no iurisdittion over servng judicial officers such as the appellant, save the National Judicial Council.
“The Motion on Notice dated 14th January, 2019, challenging iurisdiction ought to be granted in all material particular as it purports to save the lower tribunal of needless futile exercise.
“The lower tribunal erred In law when it dismissed the Appellant’s Application seeking the chairman to recuse himself from further proceedings on the ground of real likelihood of bias and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice
“Once an allegation of real likelihood of the bias Is raised, the Court or tribunal will have nothing more to say except to watch its hands from further proceedings in the matter.
“The Appellant has alleged that the chairman of the lower tribunal is biased towards him as a result of open remarks in the tribunal as well as the manner in which the proceedings was being conducted”.
More over, Onnoghen, said he did not admit the fact of non declaration of Assets from year 2005 as the Justice of the Supreme Court.
” The Appellant only stated that he did not declare in 2009 as required because he forgot. The evidence of and exhibit tendered has affirmed the statement of the appellant that he forgot to make a declaration in 2009 but did In 2010 when he remembered, showing there was a declaration after all, contrary to count one of the charge.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when It held that the evidence of DW-I, did not create reasonable doubt on the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that the Appellant did not make declaration of assets since 2005 and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the Appellant is guilty of counts 2-6 of the charge in view of the fact that the Appellant made an admission that he did not declare the Standard Chattered Bank Account Numbers in the 2014 declaration and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The Appellant’s statement that he did not declare the Account numbers in the Standard Chartered Bank in the 2014 Declaration because he never believed the account numbers were opened, does not amount to an admission in law that he made false statements as indicated in counts 2-6.
“The declaration for 2014 and 2016 were all made the same day being 16th December, 2016, but the disparity was that whereas the 2016 declaration had the account numbers, in Standard Chartered Bank, that of 2014 did not have but in any event, the said account numbers were declared.
“The Account numbers were the ones declared by the Appellant himself in the 2016 declaration and was not found out from any other source.
“The Appellant did not make any false statement or declaration by the omission to state the account numbers in the 2014 declaration.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the Appellant made false statement by the omission to declare the Account numbers in Standard Chartered Bank in 2014 declaration the same way he did in the 2016 declaration and held counts 2-6 to be proved and thus occasioned miscarriage of justice.
” Section 15 (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act is very clear and unambiguous when it provides that there must be verification. The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that count one of the charge is valid and proceeded to convict the Appellant upon it.
“The Honourable Tribunal erred In law when it tried and convicted the Defendant/Appellant for failure to declare and submit assets declaration Forms, between 2005 and 2016, which alleged offence ls unknown to law; and in total violation of Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution”, Onnoghen added in the appeal he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN.