Onnoghen: More fireworks, trial shaky
The storm generated over the expected arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, is nowhere near abating as groups – civil society, lawyers, and political parties- continue to take entrenched positions.
Onnoghen is to be arraigned by the Code of Conduct Bureau at the tribunal on Monday, today, on six counts of alleged false asset declaration.
The CJN was accused by a group, the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, ARDI, of operating multiple accounts used for the transfer of foreign currencies, including U.S. dollars, Euros and pounds.
On Sunday, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, condemned the move and accused the executive arm of the government of desperately seeking to intimidate the judiciary.
The NBA condemned the speed of the investigation and trial of Onnoghen, describing it as a validation of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari’s federal executive has directed the current development.
“If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment!
“Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.
“As a final point, it is also difficult for a disinterested observer not to see a pattern of consistent assault by agencies of the FGN on the heads of the two independent arms of government,” the NBA said in a statement by Paul Usoro, its president.
Also, The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room condemns the planned arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on non-declaration of assets allegations.
Without commenting on the merits or de-merits of the allegations, “Situation Room is concerned that the timing of the charges, the national and international public perception, as well as optics, of charging a Chief Justice of the country to a tribunal four weeks to the 2019 Nigeria General election, would be very damaging to Nigeria as a country and certainly damaging to the credibility of the elections.
“Situation Room is not persuaded that there is a national emergency that compels the allegations against the Chief Justice being prosecuted at this time, especially as case law exists that states a judicial officer (which includes the Chief Justice of Nigeria) must first be reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the matter investigated and dispensed with, before such a judicial officer can be charged).”
The Situation Room, a coalition of civil society groups, called for “the immediate withdrawal of the charges against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen,” while urging him to “resist any and all pressures seeking to compel his resignation at this time in the light of the charges being filed against him.”
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, while calling for caution in the charges filed against Justice Onnoghen, said Nigeria is not a Banana Republic.
In a statement issued on Sunday by Turaki Hassan, the speaker’s spokesperson, Dogara said that while the House awaits further briefing from relevant agencies, nevertheless, it is important that due process is followed because Nigeria is a country governed by laws and not dictates of men.
“Nigeria is a country governed by laws with clearly spelt out procedures and processes for their activation and not the dictates of men. It is important that people in authority should exercise power with decorum and not plunge the nation to needless crises as Nigeria is not a banana republic,” Dogara stated.
However, the All Party Progressives Congress, APC, has hailed the arraignment, accusing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of being sympathetic to corruption.
“Following reports of the move to prosecute Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of the Federation, over an alleged infraction on the Code of Conduct laws, the swift statement by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemning the purported move has again exposed the Party as one with a natural inclination to rise up in defence of cases of alleged corruption”, APC said in the statement which was signed by its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu.
“PDP and corruption are Siamese twins that are difficult to separate from each other. One would have thought that the PDP will call for impartial investigations when corruption cases are levelled against public officers, but spinning falsehoods and conspiracies remains the opposition party’s favourite past time.
“The fight against corruption remains a cardinal promise made by the APC to the electorate. We assure the PDP and indeed all Nigerians that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration remains uncompromising in its determination to rid the country of this malady.
“As noted on many occasions by President Buhari, it is only those who have committed crimes that need to worry. The APC administration will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute any public officer if and when such is indicted for corruption.”
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