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CCT Trial/Conviction: A-Court decides Onnoghen’s fate Friday

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, will on Friday, deliver judgement on four separate appeals the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, filed to challenge his trial and conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja.

Onnoghen
The Suspended Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen consulting with his Lead Counsel during the continuation of the hearing of his case by the Code of Conduct Tribunal at Jabi, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 11/03/2019

The tribunal had in a judgment it delivered on April 18, found Onnoghen guilty on all the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him.

The Mr. Danladi Umar-led three-man panel tribunal said it was satisfied that FG successfully proved its allegation that Onnoghen who had voluntarily resigned his position as CJN on April 4, acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers in the country.

It held that evidence of three witnesses that testified in the course of the trial, were not discredited by the defendant who was accused of failing to properly declare his assets, as well as operating five domiciliary foreign bank accounts.

The panel maintained that admission by the embattled former CJN that he forgot to declare the five accounts he operated since 2009, was “weighty enough” to guarantee his conviction.

Aside giving FG the nod to confiscate all the monies in the accounts, the tribunal further deposed Onnoghen as the CJN and Chairman of both the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Federal Judiciary Service Commission, FJSC.

Onnoghen: When a judge is too guilty to be innocent

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Onnoghen who was initially suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, filed 16 grounds of appeal to challenge his conviction.

The embattled ex-CJN had prior to his conviction, filed appeals to challenge the propriety of his trial before the CCT.

Apart from contending that the tribunal lacked the powers to assume jurisdiction to try a serving judicial officer over alleged misconduct, Justice Onnoghen, in an appeal he filed on January 15, maintained that the tribunal erred in law when it held that the preliminary objection he filed to challenge the competence of the charge, would be heard alongside the motion FG filed to remove him as CJN.

Onnoghen insisted that it was wrong for the tribunal to hear and determine FG’s motion when its jurisdiction to entertain the substantive charge was being challenged.

He therefore prayed the appellate court to set-aside the decision of the CCT as contained in a ruling its Chairman delivered on January 14.

Justice Onnoghen had also lodged another appeal to challenge the ex-parte order the CCT issued for his suspension.

In the four grounds of appeal he filed on Tuesday, Onnoghen, argued that the CCT erred in law by granting an ex-parte order for his removal, even it had yet to determine whether or not it has the jurisdiction to try him.

 

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He therefore applied for, “An order setting aside the order of the tribunal made on the 23rd of January, directing the Appellant to step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and a further order that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes all necessary measures to swear-in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council”.

More so, the appellant maintained that “the exercise of powers over the motion ex-parte without first determining the jurisdiction of the tribunal amounted to unlawful exercise of jurisdiction and therefore void”.

In his substantive appeal, Onnoghen argued that the 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.

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