Tribunal fixes date to deliver judgement on charges against Onnoghen

Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) [Photo Credit: The Guardian]
Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) [Photo Credit: The Guardian]

The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday fixed April 18 to deliver judgment in the charges of false and non-declaration of assets instituted against Walter Onnoghen.

Mr Onnoghen, in a letter on April 4, notified President Muhammadu Buhari of his decision to vacate office as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

On Monday at the CCT, the three-member panel, led by Danladi Umar, fixed the date for judgment after the prosecution led by Aliyu Umar, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and the defence, led by Okon Efut, adopted their final addresses.

During the proceedings, Mr Efut, in his final arguments, maintained that the prosecution failed to prove the six-count charge beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.

He, therefore, urged the tribunal to dismiss the case.

Mr Efut maintained that the statement made by Mr Onnoghen to the Code of Conduct Bureau was not confessional, as alleged by the prosecution.

“This case is about the declaration of assets and the first charge complains of non-declaration. The second to sixth counts complain of false declaration,” the lawyer said.

He argued that the charges are “contradictory and mutually exclusive.”

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“The two cannot go together. We urge the court to dismiss all six counts,” the defence counsel argued.

He added that the charges were incompetent and unconstitutional as they were based on the provisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Bureau Act which were in conflict with the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

The complainant had submitted that by the content of exhibit 6 (Mr Onnoghen’s statement to the CCB), the defendant is deemed to have confessed or admitted to the charge.

“That is incorrect in law, confession in law means admitting to all the essential elements of the charge,” he said, adding that there was nothing to signify that the defendant admitted to the charges.

“Section 11 of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act, the section upon which the charges are premised, is unconstitutional.”

Mr Umar, the prosecutor, however, said the defence team was only attempting to redefine what constituted “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

He then urged the tribunal to hold that the prosecution indeed proved the case beyond reasonable doubt and “return a guilty verdict”.

In adjourning till Thursday for judgment, the tribunal chairman said the verdict would be delivered along with two pending rulings on Mr Onnoghen’s applications.

One of the applications is challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the case.

The other application is asking the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from further presiding over the case for being allegedly bias.

Mr Onnoghen was brought before the tribunal on January 14. He is accused of failing to declare some of his assets, including some bank accounts.

The embattled Justice was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25.

The President said he suspended Mr Onnoghen based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23, 2019.

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