Justice Onnoghen absent as asset declaration trial starts at CCT

Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen
Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen

Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria due to be arraigned for alleged false assets declaration charges, was absent in cour when his trial commenced on Monday morning.

Danladi Umar, the Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman, called Mr Onnoghen’s case at about 10:08 on Monday, and the chief justice was absent.

Wole Olanipekun, a senior Nigerian lawyer who is leading a team of 46 other senior lawyers to enter defence for the chief justice, began by challenging the jurisdiction of the case.

“You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter,” Mr Olanipekun said to the tribunal chairman.

Mr Olanipekun said Mr Onnoghen has not been indicted by the National Judicial Council as legally required of serving judges before his matter was picked up by the tribunal following a petition filed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Mr Olanipekun also said Mr Onnoghen was not given enough time to prepare for his arraignment before being summoned by the tribunal.

The chief justice was charged with six counts of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on January 10.

The charges followed a petition brought against him by a group, the Anti-corruption Research and Data Based Initiative, headed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and former official of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Denis Aghanya.

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In a statement, the CCT said it received the request for the trial of Mr Onnoghen on Friday and had slated Monday to commence with the matter.

Various lawyers and the Nigerian Bar Association have condemned the arraignment, describing it as unlawful, politically motivated and “a prosecutorial misadventure”.

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