President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to deal with more mighty and powerful Nigerians who are corrupt irrespective of party affiliations amid criticisms of his administration’s trial of Nigeria’s former Chief Justice.
Despite his voluntary retirement, the CCT found the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen guilty of asset declaration fraud and banned him from holding public office for a decade.
In a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the APC-led government campaign against corruption has just begun, saying the fight is all encompassing and not designed to persecute anyone for political or other reasons.
Shehu disclosed this in a statement while reacting to the conviction of Walter Onnoghen, suspended chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), in Abuja on Thursday.
Shehu said the conviction of Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was a major victory for the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration.
He explained that the outcome of the trial demonstrated clearly that ”the law is no respecter of persons, titles, social or political connections”.
According to him, the essence of the rule of law is to hold everyone accountable before the law, regardless of their status in society.
“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” TheCable quoted Shehu as saying.
Onnoghen rejects judgement heads to appeal
In the meantime, the troubled Onnoghen has rejected the CCT judgement and has with filed an appeal at the appellate court.
Danladi Umar, CCT chairman, had found Onnoghen guilty of the six counts preferred against him by the federal government.
Umar, therefore, ordered that Onnoghen be removed from office of CJN and banned from holding public office for 10 years.
Umar also ordered the forfeiture of the money in the five accounts which the defendant failed to declare as part of his assets.
The federal government was listed as the only respondent.
Onnoghen’s counsels led by Adeboyega Awomolo, Chris Uche, Okon Efut, Ogwu Onoja and George Ibrahim, said tribunal erred when it dismissed his application.
“The appellant was at the time the charges were filed on the 11th of January, 2019 before the lower tribunal a judicial officer and was not subject to the jurisdiction of the lower tribunal,” Onnoghen said in ground one.
In ground two, he asked the CCT chairman to recuse himself from further proceedings.
“Once an allegation of real likelihood of the bias is raised the court or tribunal will have nothing more to say except to wash its hands from further proceedings in the matter.”
In ground sixteen, Onnoghen said the tribunal erred when it placed on the defendant the burden of proving his innocence which according to him is a violation of section 36 (5) of the constitution.
“The onus was on the prosecution to prove that that the defendant did not declare and submit his assets declaration form to the Code of Conduct Bureau for over 11 years as charged,” he said.
Onnoghen thereby sought for the following reliefs:
- An order allowing this appeal.
- An order that the lower tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain the case.
- An order that the lower tribunal ought to have recuse itself from proceedings before it.
- An order that the charge has become academic
- An order setting aside the the conviction of the appellant.
- An order setting aside the order for forfeiture of assets made by the honorable tribunal.
- An order discharging and acquiting the appellant.
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