Nigeria’s embattled chief judge, Walter Onnoghen has been found guilty by a special court for fraudulently hiding some of his assets without declaring it in accordance with the country’s public rules.
The judgment was read by Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal or CCT, Danladi Umar at a packed courtroom in the country’s capital, Abuja on Thursday.
The CCT banned the judge from holding public office for ten years, in line with the sentencing provisions of the special court, and also confiscated five of the accounts he owns which were found to contain monies not commensurate with his legitimate earnings.
Onnoghen had on April 5 sent in his letter of resignation to President Muhammadu Buhari but the government is yet to respond to the letter, in a tactic that revealed it was waiting for Thursday’s court ruling which has now found the suspended chief judge guilty.
He had done so after being hinted that the National Judicial Council, NJC, which has powers to discipline erring judges, had recommended his compulsory retirement in its recommendations to President Buhari after treating earlier petitions and hearing from both sides on the allegations.
Lawyers for the accused judge are yet to comment on whether Onnoghen will be appealing the judgment or not. Nigeria’s laws allow for him to appeal the judgement at two appelate courts: Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
He had all through the trial maintained his innocence of the allegations filed by the Nigerian government against him.
This is the first time that a Nigerian chief judge has been suspended, charged or found guilty by a court.
The government says Onnoghen’s prosecution is a proof of how faceless its anti-corruption is being executed but some accused persons and public commentators have described the anti-graft war as skewed against President Buhari’s political opponents or those persons not in the good books of the governing All Progressives Congress, APC.