The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), siting in Abuja, has ordered the arrest of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on the insistence of the FG prosecution team, following his continuous absence from the trial.
Backstory: Directing the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department for State Services to arrest the embattled Chief Justice, the Danladi Umar-led panel asked the security agencies to ensure that Onnoghen appears at the next trial scheduled for Friday. The Federal Government had earlier in the day, forwarded an application for a bench warrant to be issued, allowing for the arrest of the suspended CJN. This was due to his failure to enter his plea to the six-count charge against him. Onnoghen had missed the CCT proceedings on Tuesday, just as he had, on the previous four court sessions set to address his declaration of assets case. Aliyu Umar (SAN) had made the application orally based on section 6(10) of the Practice Direction of the CCT, opposing the call on the three-man tribunal panel to hear all pending applications. Umar also stated that by virtue of section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 no objections could be raised by the defendant until he took his plea. Justice Onnoghen , is accused of failing to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, as well as allegedly operating foreign bank accounts, which infracts on the code of conduct for public officials.
NBA Calls for Charges to be dropped: Prior to Onnoghen’s arrest, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had called on the Federal Government to drop the charges of non-declaration of assets leveled against the suspended CJN. The president of the association, Paul Usoro, made this call on Tuesday asking for due process to be complied with by allowing the National Judicial Council (NJC), conclude its own investigations into the case.
“Given these non-exhaustive considerations and facts, we press on the Executive arm of the FGN to please discontinue the charge against the CJN when the matter comes up before the CCT on Wednesday, 13 February 2019,” Usoro said. “We respectfully urge full compliance with due process by FGN in this matter by allowing the NJC process to take its course in respect of the two petitions against the CJN, a step that has already, commendably, been embraced by FGN in respect of the EFCC petition.”