Following the conviction meted out to Justice Walter Onnoghen relieving him of his duties as Chief Justice of Nigeria, Onnoghen has reacted. The former Chief Justice rejected the judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which had convicted him on the six- count charge of false declaration of assets brought against him by the Federal Government.
Onnoghen, through his counsel, filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, challenging the judgment of the three-member panel of the Tribunal hours after the judgment was delivered on April 18.
In the notice of appeal which has the Federal Government of Nigeria as the only respondent, Onnoghen stated that:
1. There was a lapse in judgment when the CCT dismissed his application challenging its jurisdiction.
2. The Tribunal erred in law when it dismissed his application seeking the chairman to disqualify himself from further proceedings on the ground of bias.
3. He argued in the particulars or error that he was not, at the time the charges were filed against him on January 11, a judicial officer and was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and that, it is only the National Judicial Council (NJC) that has the power to discipline him for misconduct.
4. According Onnoghen, the CCT erred in law when it held that he confessed to the charges against him by admission and use that as a basis to hold that he did declare his assets from the her 2015 when he became a justice of the Supreme Court.
5. “That the CCT chair erred in law when it refused to recuse himself from the proceedings in view of the declarations by the chairman that he is only accountable to the president, who appointed him and nobody else, because he is not a judicial officer and thus, occasioned a miscarriage of justice.”
6. That the Tribunal erred when it held that he is guilty of the charges in view of the fact that he made an admission that he did not declare the Standard Chattered bank account numbers in the 2014 declaration and that he made a false statement by commission to declare the account numbers.
7. That CCT erred in law when it ordered that his assets be confiscated when he has resigned his appointment since April 4, 2019 and no longer a public officer capable of being punished for any wrong doing.
The appeal read: “Take notice that the appellant herein, Justice Onnoghen Nkanu Walter Samuel being dissatisfied with the rulings/judgement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Coram Danladi Umar (Chairman), William Atedze (Member I) and Julie A Anakor (Member II) delivered on the 18th of April, 2019, wherein it ruled on the application challenging its jurisdiction and to recuse itself from the proceedings as well the judgement on the substantive matter against the appellant, do hereby appeal upon the grounds set out in paragraph 3 hereof and will at the hearing of the appeal, seek the reliefs and orders set out in paragraph 4.”
The Tribunal had held that the Federal government proved beyond reasonable doubt that Justice Onnoghen breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
The Tribunal then convicted him and removed him from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the NJC. It also banned him from holding public office for the next ten years and ordered him to forfeit all the money in the five accounts he maintains with Standard Chattered bank, Wise II, Abuja, which he failed to declare between 2009 and 2015.
In related development, the presidency has reacted to claims that Onnoghen’s conviction was political rather based on misconduct. Daily Advent had earlier reported thus: Following the conviction of Walter Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the presidency has given a statement reiterating to Nigerians that the Buhari’s administration is in for a show down when it comes to corruption and will not hesitate to proclaim the same fate to anyone- be it public official or citizen.
The presidency further stated that the conviction was given for political reasons as many have claimed.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, disclosed this in statement reacting to the conviction of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in Abuja on Thursday.
He stated the conviction of Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal was a major clap back against corruption and a huge feat which will not only go down in history but also further corroborate Buhari’s administration’s anti-corruption stance.
Shehu explained that the conviction is proof that ”the law is no respecter of persons, titles, social or political connections”.
According to him, the reason a society has a legal modus operandi that holds everyone accountable is so that no one can get away with corruption irrespective of who they are or what they have accomplished.
His words: “The rule of law will lose its meaning and validity if only the weak, the poor and powerless are punished for their violations of the law.
”Countries succeed because the rule of law is evenly upheld and enforced. The war against corruption would go nowhere if the high and mighty are spared because of their influence and connections.
”You can’t fight corruption by allowing impunity because the rule of law cannot function where impunity is tolerated.” He added.
Shehu further adds that the conviction of Onnoghen would serve as a strong deterrent to people who have plans of doing same and will also ensure Nigerians are reminded that anti-corruption tentacles are ”spread widely to hold public officials accountable, whether they are politicians, judges, civil servants or holding positions of public trust.”
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