The sacked Chief Justice of Nigeria insists that the Code of Conduct Tribunal erred in judgement and did not have jurisdiction to rule on his case.
Justice Walter Onnoghen has filed an appeal against the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) that found him guilty of assets declaration offences and sacked him as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Onnoghen faced six charges of non-declaration and fraudulent declaration of assets relating to his failure to declare a series of bank accounts, denominated in local and foreign currencies, as required of public officers by law.
During its ruling on Thursday, April 18, 2019, the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT found him guilty of failing to declare five bank accounts listed on the charge sheet.
The three-member tribunal removed him as the CJN, the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission. He was also banned from holding public office in the country for the next 10 years.
The CCT also ruled that Onnoghen acquired the undeclared funds fraudulently since he could not provide a satisfying explanation for the source. Monies found in the affected bank accounts were confiscated and forfeited to the Federal Government.
Before delivering its judgement on Thursday, the tribunal also dismissed two separate motions filed by Onnoghen challenging its jurisdiction to entertain the case, and another asking Umar to recuse himself on the grounds that he had been charged with bribe-taking.
Justice Walter Onnoghen was at the CCT on Thursday, April 18 where he was removed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria days after he resigned Justice Walter Onnoghen was at the CCT on Thursday, April 18 where he was removed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria days after he resigned
However, in a notice of appeal filed at the Registry of the CCT shortly after the judgement on Thursday, Onnoghen raised 16 grounds on which he faulted CCT’s ruling and urged the Court of Appeal to set it aside and discharge and acquit him.
According to a report by The Nation, Onnoghen insisted that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to hear the charges and should have recused itself like he requested.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it refused to recuse itself from the proceedings in view of the open declaration by the Chairman of the tribunal that he is only accountable to the President, who appointed him and nobody else, because he is not a judicial officer and thus, occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice,” the notice read.
Onnoghen also requested that the order to forfeit the monies found in the affected five bank accounts should be dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
After the reading of the judgement on Thursday, Onnoghen’s lead counsel, Okon Efut, hinted that the CCT’s decision will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We know that all is not over in this matter. The wheel of justice grinds slowly. It grinds slowly but surely. But this is not a matter that will end here.
“We shall avail ourselves of all the processes and the hierarchy of the judiciary,” he said.
He also described the judgement as unconstitutional, alleging that it was already decided when the tribunal ordered Onnoghen’s suspension without fair hearing in January.
President Muhammadu Buhari controversially suspended Onnoghen as CJN shortly after he was first arraigned in January 2019 and inaugurated Justice Tanko Mohammed as the acting CJN based on an order of the CCT, a move that attracted outrage from opposition parties and the international community.
Onnoghen turned in his resignation letter to President Buhari on April 4 after the NJC reportedly recommended his compulsory retirement due to alleged misconduct based on petitions filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The 68-year-old was nominated as the Chief Justice by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, in February 2017 and was sworn in on March 7, 2017.