Huge support for Onnoghen may thwart Buhari’s plans to remove him as trial adjourns till next week
Official sources said about 47 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) were present at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Monday to defend the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen over alleged false deceleration of assets. This is as about 150 SANs had reportedly indicated interest in standing for the CJN.
Meanwhile, there is a deluge of criticism against the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to prosecute Onnoghen
Five out of six South-South governors also joined opposition voices to prevail on Mr Onnoghen not to appear before the tribunal.
Constitutional lawyer, Sebastine Hon (SAN) in a telephone chat with Daily Trust on Saturday, January 12, 2018, said the number of eminent lawyers that have volunteered to defend the CJN might even be more than 150.
He described the six-count criminal charge against the CJN as “a deliberate attempt to gag the judiciary”.
He urged the CJN not to heed to what he termed as an “unholy call” for him to step aside.
“While I know that the Chief Justice of Nigeria does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, I see this move by the Federal Government as dangerously political and tendentious,” he said.
“Suddenly, we woke to see a petition leaked to the informal or social media, allegedly received by the Code of Conduct on 9th January, 2019.
“Suddenly, we are told charges have been filed against the CJN. Suddenly the Presidency is reportedly asking him to step aside! Was he interrogated or interviewed and his own reactions obtained?”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); its presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar; the Coalition of Political Parties (CUPP) and other top politicians have alleged that the charges against Onnoghen “is a move by the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government to rig the 2019 general elections”.
These claims were contained in separate statements made available to journalists on Saturday.
The CCT on Monday adjourned until January 22 the next hearing in Onnoghen’s trial.
Mr Onnoghen faces six counts of failing to disclose many bank accounts linked to him as a judge on the Supreme Court, which he had allegedly used to save millions in local and foreign currency.
At the opening hearing today, Mr Onnoghen was absent, but he had a team of 47 senior lawyers, led by Wole Olanipekun, who represented him.