By Ameh John
The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Thursday found the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen guilty of violating the code of conduct for public servants in the country.
Delivering judgement on a six count charge bordering on false assets declaration by the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman, CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, ordered the immediate sack of Justice Onnoghen who had resigned from office recently.
The tribunal equally ordered the removal of Justice Onnoghen as Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), as well as Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the forfeiture of all the assets that were found not to have been declared to the federal government by the convict.
While delivering the verdict, Justice Umar said: “The defendant is hereby removed from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman of the National Judicial Council and the Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.The defendant is hereby banned from holding public office for 10 years.”
“The money in the five accounts which the defendant has failed to declare and disclose its source is hereby confiscated, seized and forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria as the money was acquired illegally and the defendant has failed to adduce any evidence how he acquired the money.”
While the CCT held that the federal government was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, it, however, said Onnoghen was unable to prove his innocence.
Earlier, the tribunal dismissed two preliminary objections filed by Justice Onnoghen, in which he questioned the jurisdiction and impartiality of the CCT Chairman to hear his case.
Onnoghen is barred from holding any public office for the next 10 years, the band account holder of the monies found with the exCJN be forfeited to the federal government.
While reading the lead judgment, the CCT boss, identified the following as the exhibits tendered by the prosecution against Justice Walter Onnoghen.
“The petition written by the Executive Director, Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, Mr. Dennis Aghanya.
“Forms CCB 1 submitted by Onmoghen to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
“Account opening package of Onnoghen’s five accounts with the Standard Chattered Bank.
“Statements of the five bank accounts.”
In his reaction shortly after the verdict was handed down, Onnogheb’s lawyer, Mr. Okon Efut (SAN), noted that his client’s conviction was a travesty of justice, adding that the conviction of the former CJN would be appealed at the Court of Appeal.
Speaking with journalists on Thursday, Efut said: “We know that all is not over in this matter. The wheel of justice grinds slowly. It grinds slowly but surely. But this is not a matter that will end here. We shall avail ourselves of all the processes and the hierarchy of the judiciary.”
He described the judgment as unconstitutional, adding that it was in breach of the ex-CJN’s right to fair hearing.
He also said the judgment was premeditated, saying it had been passed as far back as January 23 when the tribunal ordered Onnoghen’s suspension without hearing him.
He said, “The conviction is unconstitutional. It is a breach of fair hearing.
“Before this day, on January 23, 2019, the same judgment had been passed, removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria without fair hearing.
“So, it was fait accompli, it was premeditated. Judgment has been passed before today. Today’s judgment is just a formality.
“We hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the Constitution of Nigeria, it has breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“It has not only been able to pass judgment, it has convicted on an offence that was never charged.
“This is an erosion of the fundamental principles of our Constitution and until some questions are answered, for instance, why is it that the due course of justice was not allowed to flow?”, Efut queried.