By Bukola Olasanmi
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has been docked before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of non-declaration of assets.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him.
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had in a 6-counts charge filed at the CCT on January 11 accused Nigeria’s suspended head of judiciary of failure to declare his assets between June 2005 and December 2016 contrary to provisions of section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C15 LFN 2004 and punishable under section 23(2) a, b, and c of the same Act.
While his arraignment was initially scheduled for January 14, the suspended CJN did not come to the tribunal. He also did not come to the tribunal on January 22, January 28, February 4 and February 13, which led the tribunal to issue a warrant for his arrest on February 13.
However, at the resumed hearing today, upon his presence in the tribunal, his lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN) asked that the bench warrant order be discharged with the defendant having appeared voluntarily without the execution of the bench warrant.
Delivering ruling on the application, the tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar held that “The bench warrant earlier issued, since the defendant made himself available voluntarily without the execution of the bench warrant, the tribunal hereby set aside the warrant on the condition that the defendant must henceforth make himself available throughout the trial.”
Earlier, the tribunal chairman asked Onnoghen to sit down in a chair provided for him inside the dock. “My Lord, sit down”, he said.
However, Onnoghen remained standing, adding, “I thank you for the privilege. When I need it I will sit down.”
He remained standing in dock throughout the proceeding.
After the plea, Onnoghen’s lawyer applied for bail on self-recognizance for his client, to which the tribunal chairman replied, “Granted.”
He thereafter applied for an adjournment till after the election, to which the prosecution counsel, Ibrahim Musa did not object.
The tribunal adjourned the matter to March 11 for hearing of all pending applications.