Conviction of Nigeria’s chief judge tainted, lawyers say

Judgment has been passed before today. Today’s judgment is just a formality – Okon Efut (Defence lead)

Lawyers in Nigeria say the conviction and sentencing of the country’s chief judge, Walter Onnoghen on Friday may not achieve the desired effect on the country’s anti-graft campaign due to what they say is a subtle circumvention of the special court’s processes by government, to hasten the trial.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal, an assets declaration special court sitting in Abuja, had found Onnoghen guilty of not disclosing his full assets to the government bureau charged with receiving such declaration forms.

Onnoghen, 68, was ordered to be removed from office, forfeit deposits in five of his bank accounts and banned from holding public office for ten years, in line with the sentencing provisions of the special court; Danladi Umar, Chairman of the CCT said in his judgment.

Defence team insists on innocence

“It was fait accompli, it was premeditated. Judgment has been passed before today. Today’s judgment is just a formality.” Okon Efut, who led the defence of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria at Thursday’s judgment told newsmen after the proceedings. “We shall avail ourselves of all the processes and the hierarchy of the judiciary.” He said.

Your Friends Also Read:  Ethiopian Airlines Resumes Flights to Tigray Region

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a chat with News Central, believes the judgment will serve its point in deterring other corrupt persons. But other lawyers interviewed doubt if there was no interference by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the court’s processes to gain a desired outcome.

“The decision taken by the tribunal and the way the proceedings were conducted did not serve the interest of justice, we can’t overlook that and say let us look at the substance of the matter.”  Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos constitutional lawyer and rights activist told News Central.

The lawyer said the government went overboard in its bid to oust chief judge Onnoghen.

“There are laid down procedures for removing the Chief justice of Nigeria. I hope the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to look at this matter, because the issues raised in his case are of great jurisprudential importance.” Effiong concluded.

One legal practitioner, Liborous Oshoma, is disturbed by the rhetoric of the tribunal chairman and how swift the court operated in the course of the trial, which began in January.

Oshoma told News Central that he was almost certain that the CCT will arrive at a judgment convicting the suspended chief judge due to several exparte orders issued and the chairman’s rhetoric.

Your Friends Also Read:  Dozens of Troops, Civilians Killed in Burkina Faso Insurgents Attack

“The decision to bar a person who is on the verge of retirement from holding public office is a pat on the back. I like the fact that such monies traced to his account are forfeited so people don’t enjoy the proceeds of corruption.” Oshoma said when asked if the judgment will serve as a deterrent to other corrupt judges in the judiciary.

Assets declaration or witch-hunt

Friday’s conviction of the suspended chief judge has now opened a new debate in Nigeria on when and how the procedure for assets declaration should be conducted by officials and whether any citizen could demand such forms and be given in line with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Assets forms of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had previously been declined by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, charged with that responsibility. Citizens were however surprised when the suspended chief judge’s assets forms were made available to Dennis Aghanya, a private citizen with links to President Buhari.

Your Friends Also Read:  Corporate Council on Africa to Co-Host 2022 U.S.-Africa Business Forum

“I believe this is a good opportunity for the CCB to clear the air on what some sections have termed a witch-hunt of the judiciary or the former CJN, the constitution is clear on who should declare their assets, so what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” SERAP’s Kolawole Oludare told News Central.

Onnoghen had on April 4 sent in his letter of resignation to President Buhari but the government is yet to respond to it, in a tactic that revealed it was waiting for Thursday’s court ruling which has now found the suspended chief judge guilty and ordered his immediate dismissal.

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 allegation.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central TV.



Leave a Reply

Previous Article

Nigerian president increases minimum wage to 30,000 naira

Next Article
Togo President Faure Gnassingbe Arrives Mali for Talks

Two opposition leaders detained over Togo protests: party

Related Posts