Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has called for a fair hearing in the case leveled against him by the FG at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which led to his suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking on behalf of the suspended CJN on Monday, his counsel, Chief Adegboyeka Awolowo, stated that Justice Onnoghen, was highly doubtful of his chances of getting a fair hearing by the tribunal, which he described as simply an extension of the Presidency which suspended him. He makes a good point: The CCB, which recommended his trial, the Attorney-General of the Federation prosecuting him, and the tribunal itself, are all answerable to the executive arm of government, headed by the president.
“The tenet of fair hearing is that no one should be a judge in his own case. It is our position that the principle of natural justice, equity and good conscience requires that the defendant’s right to fair hearing deserve a thorough examination by this tribunal,” Awolowo argued.
Recalling a recent letter to the National Judicial Council from the tribunal head, Danladi Umar, where he stated that he was only answerable to the Presidency, Awolowo said, “We agree with that position. In the interest of justice, we urge my lords to hold that from circumstances demonstrated in the affidavit, without freedom and impartiality of the tribunal, right of fair hearing of the defendant would be jeopardized.”
FG not backing down: The Federal Government in a statement yesterday through its lawyer, Aliyu Umar, stated that it was ready to pursue the six count charge against Onnoghen until an indictment is made.
Umar explained that since the suspended CJN wasn’t charged for misconduct as a judicial officer, but rather for violating the code of conduct for public officers in the 1999 constitution, the NJC wasn’t needed on the case as the CCB was statutorily empowered to investigate and prosecute such infraction.
The Federal Government therefore called on the tribunal led by Danladi Umar, to commence a full hearing of the charges against Onnoghen.