CCT convicts, sacks Onnoghen

Walter OnnoghenThe Code of Conduct Tribunal has convicted Nigeria’s suspended top judge Walter Onnoghen for not declaring his assets when he was appointed.

Although Onnoghen reportedly resigned a few weeks after his trial at the tribunal began, the chairman of the tribunal Dalnadi Umar Thursday said he should be removed immediately. He was also stripped of all benefits attached to former offices he held.

Onnoghen will lose funds in five bank accounts traced to him and has been barred from holding public office in the next ten years.

Onnoghen was first arraigned before the CCT by the Code of Conduct Bureau in January.

The CCB accused Onnoghen of failing to declare his assets from June 2005, after he became a Justice of the Supreme Court till December 2016, two months after the Federal Government raided the homes of several judges, including those of the Supreme Court in October 2018.

According to the six-count charge brought against him, Onnoghen was also accused of false declaration of his assets, following his alleged failure to include some domiciliary accounts managed by the Standard Chartered Bank.

President Muhammadu Buhari said in January that apart from the “grievous” allegations against Onnoghen, “the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.”

“In line with this administration’s avowed respect for the Rule of Law, I have wholeheartedly obeyed the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated 23rd January 2019,” Buhari said.

He said Onnoghen’s excuse that the non-declaration was due to mistake and forgetfulness was not known to law.

Subsequently, Buhari on January 25 suspended Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen just few days to the country’s general election. He swore-in Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as the acting CJN.

Buhari said he suspended because of the ‘respect’ his government has for the Rule of Law.

“In line with this administration’s avowed respect for the Rule of Law, I have wholeheartedly obeyed the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated 23rd January 2019,” Buhari said.

But critics said the president’s move was in violation of the same Rule of Law.

The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said Buhari’s decision “is symptomatic of the increasing desperation that President Buhari and the cabal pulling the strings have as February 16, 2019, draws near.”

Buhari’s decision also prompted criticism from the U.S. and the European Union.

The Nigerian Bar Association said the president was trying to put someone compliant at the top of the Supreme Court in the event of a dispute over the election, which Buhari won.

PDP has alleged that the election was rigged and the party is challenging the results in court.

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