The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday ordered the forfeiture of five bank accounts belonging to the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, after finding him guilty of false asset declaration.
The tribunal announced the forfeiture as part of other punishments it imposed on Mr Onnoghen.
In a ruling delivered by the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, the CCT said the submissions of Mr Onnoghen that he forgot to include some details of his asset in his form was enough evidence to convict him of the charge against him.
According to Mr Umar, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Onnoghen refused to disclose his accounts in the asset declaration form, despite having the five accounts since 2009.
“It is crystal clear that the defendant was in clear breach of the CCB Act,” he said. “The tribunal has come to the conclusion that the defendant is in clear breach of the code of conduct for public officers.”
Mr Umar then asked Mr Onnoghen if he had something to say and the former CJN responded in the negative.
Invoking the provisions of section 23 of the Tribunal Act, Mr Umar ordered that Mr Onnoghen be removed from office.
He also ruled that Mr Onnoghen must not hold public office for 10 years.
The other two members of the CCT panel, William Atedze and Jilie Amabor, did not comment to indicate whether they agreed with the ruling.
Earlier Mr Umar had ruled on a number of interim applications regarding the matter.
On the application challenging CCT’s jurisdiction, Mr Umar said the provisions of the constitution empowered the tribunal to adjudicate on matters relating to allegations of false asset charge without the interference of any external body including the National Judicial Council.
The tribunal also ruled that its previous decision in a case of alleged false asset charge brought against another Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, was wrong.
Accordingly, Mr Umar announced that the tribunal was overruling itself in that decision.
Mr Umar also submitted that the argument by the defence, suggesting that he was acting on the whims of President Muhammadu Buhari, lacked merit.
“All judges of superior courts are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the NJC. That does not imply that they are controlled by the president,” he said.
Mr Onnoghen’s lawyer, Okon Efut, who addressed journalists after the ruling, said the former CJN would appeal the ruling.
“We will challenge this to the highest points. And if we don’t get judgment on earth we will get in heaven,” an angry Mr Efut said.
Mr Onnoghen was arraigned at the tribunal in January, following allegations he violated the CCB Act.
Read our earlier report today on the ruling:
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has convicted the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, after finding him guilty of false assets declaration.
The tribunal headed by Danladi Umar ruled that Mr Onnoghen should forfeit the funds in the five accounts which he was accused of not disclosing.
The tribunal said Mr Onnoghen evidently acquired the funds fraudulently since he failed to show how the huge amount was acquired.
The tribunal invoked the full provision of Section 23 of the code of conduct law which allows it to remove Mr Onnoghen from office. It ordered that Mr Onnoghen should not return to the office in the next ten years.
Mr Onnoghen had weeks earlier sent a notice of retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari in line with the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.
The presidency is, however, yet to clarify Mr Onnoghen’s retirement.
Earlier, PREMIUM TIMES reported how the CCT ruled it had jurisdiction to try Mr Onnoghen without clearance of the National Judicial Council.