BCondemnation has continued to trail the prosecution of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen by the federal government over money laundering charges and failure to declare his assets.
Following the controversy surrounding the planned arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT on Monday, the presiding judge directed that the six-count charge the federal government preferred against the CJN should be served on him personally.
This followed Justice Onnoghen’s absence at the tribunal when the case was called up. While responding to question raised by the presiding judge on why the CJN was not at the tribunal and whether he was served with the charge, Aliyu Umar, a former Commissioner of Justice in Kano State who is leading the federal government prosecution team told the court that the CJN was served through one of his personal assistants.
A three-man panel of Justices of the tribunal headed by Justice Danladi Umar subsequently, fixed Tuesday next week for Justice Onnoghen to appear before the tribunal.
The planned prosecution of the CJN and his subsequent removal from office has attracted a wide range of condemnation from Nigerians of diverse background. Over 150 senior lawyers are said to have volunteered to defend the CJN before the tribunal.
Governors from the South-South region of the country had over the weekend, raised objection to the federal government’s plan to prosecute and remove the CJN from office. The governors advised Onnoghen to shun the tribunal. Leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has also criticized the government controlled by the All Progressives Congress, APC for making moves to remove the CJN with less than two months to the country’s general elections.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki urged the tribunal to be fair in the trial of the CJN. Saraki, like several others viewed the travails of the CJN as a politically motivated one.
Similarly, the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA condemned the federal government for trying to prosecute the CJN on charges of corruption, describing the move as an assault on the judiciary.
Prominent lawyers have continued to criticize the move by the government. Femi Falana, SAN, has advised the government to withdraw the charges as they appear to be persecution in nature. Mike Ozekhome, SAN, accused the government of unnecessary political witch-hunt. Similarly, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa another prominent Lagos based lawyer described the charges against the CJN as illegal. Similarly, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, a former president of the NBA has also advised the government to withdraw the charges against the CJN.