Tempers Rise As Onnoghen Faces CCT

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Yemisi Izuora
The federal government is under pressure from every angle to stop planned arraignment of Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen is expected to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT today.

Elder statesman and Niger Delta leader, Edwin Clark has warned on consequences of the action.

The CJN is accused of maintaining domiciliary bank accounts and failing to declare his assets as required by law.

Clark has also accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari of planning to appoint a new CJN who will do their bidding.

He said “The people of Nigeria Delta will not accept the CJN being harassed and forced out of office because President Muhammadu Buhari and his party want someone, who will do their bidding after rigging the elections.

 “Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, which represents the traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta and indeed the entire Niger Delta people, will never accept it. We will go all out legally to fight this battle and will never yield to anybody. It is pure victimization.

“We were all shocked on Saturday when the news came that the Chief Justice of Nigeria is being charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. This is clearly unnecessary harassment of the judiciary, a different arm of government that is independent.

“First of all, we all know that before the Chief Justice was appointed, the same President Buhari delayed it, refused to appoint him until when he went on leave on health grounds and that enabled the Vice President, who was acting President to send his name to the Senate for confirmation and appointment.

 “Buhari has always preferred that one of his kinsmen should be the Chief Justice of Nigeria. CJN Onnoghen has done nothing wrong, you cannot charge him to court because the court lacks jurisdiction to try him. The matter should first got the National Judicial Council, NJC.

“They just want to harass him, molest him simply because they want somebody that will be pliable after they have rigged the elections, to appoint tribunal chairmen and members for them to consolidate their rigging. 

“That is all what they are looking for, not any other thing, but I want to warn that this country belongs to all of us, if some people think that they own this country , let them have it and others will have their own country. 

“You cannot treat some people as if they are slaves or second-class citizens in this country, we will never allow it, not at this time, the harassment is becoming too much.

“The same Mr. President is telling people that he believes in free and fair election, he vowed to do credible election when in the real case his plan is to rig the election and is looking for those who will rig election for him.

“He appointed his relation as Chairman of the INEC Collation Centre despite the fact that everybody knows that he lived with this woman’s father and the woman’s younger brother is the Minister of Water Resources. What are they thinking of, this country does not belong to a group of people. 

“If we want to keep this country together, we must do things to keep it united. Are we saying that the minority will not exist in this country and that northerners will hold all key positions? No and if not, if means we do not want this country.”

Also, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar has warned against the forceful removal of the CJN.

Atiku said that there will be an epic battle if Onnoghen is removed ahead of the elections.

The Federal Government filed a case before the CCT asking for law officer to be removed so he will not tamper with the case.

According to Mike Ozekhomea Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the CJN cannot be forced out of office until he is found guilty.

Meanwhile,  justice Onnoghen, in a statement he made to CCB investigators on Friday January 11, explained that the undeclared foreign currencies found in his Standard Chartered Bank were his estacodes and medical allowances, including funds from his days in private practice between 1979 and 1989.

“Following my appointment as Acting CJN in November 2016, the need to declare my asset anew made me to realise the mistake”.

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He further stated that the withdrawals from his Pound Sterling and Euro accounts were for the school fees and allowances of his children who are studying abroad.

According to him, “My Asset Declaration Form No SC N 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make the declaration”.

The CJN further explained that he did not include the funds in his domiciliary accounts because he believed the accounts were not opened during the period covered by the declaration.

The CCB in a statement on Saturday confirmed the filing of the charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja, where the CJN is expected to make his plea.

The charges followed a petition to the chairman of CCB by Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI)’s Executive Secretary, Dennis Aghanya.

Justice Onnoghen was alleged to have failed to declare his asset upon assumption of office as provided in Section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act C15, punishable under Section 23 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the same Act.

He was said to be maintaining domicilliary accounts in US Dollars, British Pounds Sterling and Euro in different bank accounts in Nigeria, which were omitted in his asset form.

Investigators alleged that the CJN, presented his 2014 and 2016 assets declaration forms on same date of December 14, 2016 and both have discrepancies in them.

The planned arraignment of the CJN will be the first time a serving Chief Justice of Nigeria would be arraigned on such allegation.

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