After about three months of investigating a six-count charge bothering on corruption levelled against him by the Federal Government, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was on Thursday convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja,
Delivering the three-man panel, the Chairman, Mr Danladi Umar, also ordered the removal of Justice Onnoghen as both the CJN and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
This is even as the Tribunal banned Justice Onnoghen, who voluntarily resigned on April 4, from holding any public office in Nigeria for the next 10 years and also ordered that all the monies found in the five bank accounts linked to him, which he failed to declare as part of his assets, should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The Tribunal chairman held that Onnoghen’s failure to explain how he amassed the “huge amounts of money in his accounts”, was an indication that the funds were acquired illegally.
Earlier before delivering its judgment, the Tribunal had dismissed two preliminary objections of the former CJN lodged to challenge the legal propriety of his trial.
According to the chairman, the Tribunal had the requisite jurisdiction to try the ex-CJN on the allegation that he falsely declared his assets.
Umar held further that the Federal Government did not violate any the law by not first taking his case to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to file the charge.
He noted that the CCT was conscious of overruling itself by departing from the position it took in a similar case the government instituted against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court.
The panel chairman maintained that sections 158(1) and Paragraph 21(6) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was not applicable in Onnoghen’s case since the Federal Government did not charge him as a serving judicial officer, but rather as an ordinary public officer that acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers.