The Nigerian government has begun the trial of the Chief Justice of the country, Walter Onnoghen for failure to fully declare assets and bank accounts in line with constitutional requirements for all public officers.
At the first hearing in the nation’s capital, Abuja, on Monday; Chief Justice Onnoghen was however not present to take his plea before Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar. He was represented by over forty five senior lawyers led by Defence Counsel, Wole Olanipekun.
The suit was filed on behalf of the government by Attorney General of the country, Abubakar Malami at the CCT which is a special court for trying public officials who fail to adhere to strict codes of conduct set out in Nigeria’s constitution for all public officials. With commencement of the case, Onnoghen’s lawyers immediately filed an application before the tribunal asking that the case be discontinued as the CCT has no jurisdiction to hear the case. They also said the chief justice was improperly served notice of the trial hence the case should be dismissed on both grounds. Prosecution Counsel, Aliyu Umar, kicked against the request by the defence stating that the failure of Chief Justice Onnoghen to appear before the tribunal to take his plea is a total disrespect for the court hence the two prayers should not be granted.
He said all procedures were followed in serving Onnoghen through his personal assistant who acknowledged receipt of the court documents notifying the defendant of the case before the CCT. After arguments by both parties especially pleas by the defence team for a longer time to prepare and file their responses to the six-count charges preferred against their client, the case was subsequently adjourned to Tuesday next week for the purpose of service to be made personally to Onnoghen and for all teams to properly prepare their briefs ahead of the full commencement of trial.
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