Thursday 4 April 2019

NJC Meeting On Onnoghen, Muhammad Ends In Deadlock

Sources within the NJC said its meeting ended in deadlock as they could not decide appropriately on the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Justice Walter Onnoghen
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has decided on the report of the five-man committee it set up to investigate petitions against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, CFR.
The NJC took the decision in an emergency meeting held on Wednesday.
But sources within the NJC said its meeting ended in deadlock as they could not decide appropriately on the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The source said they expect Onnoghen to resign on his own, noting that even if he was found guilty it will be a herculean task removing him because the Federal Government will need two-thirds of the Senate to do that.
“And as you know that will be difficult with the present Senate as constituted”, he said, noting that the government may be packaging a retire stunt for him.
A statement by Soji Oye, Director, Information, NJC, said, “Council decided that the allegations relating to assets declaration that were levelled against Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON, were sub judice and, therefore abstained from considering them.
“Council reached a decision on the petitions written by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others and conveyed its decision to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
“Council also resolved that, by the nature of the decision reached, it would be inappropriate to publicise it before conveying it to Mr. President.”
Lawyers on Wednesday hailed the National Judicial Council (NJC) for reaching a timely decision on the petitions brought against suspended Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, saying, however, that they are optimistic that the embattled jurist will be vindicated at the end.
Speaking exclusively with Daily Independent following NJC’s Wednesday submission of its finding to President Muhammadu Buhari, the lawyers said that the charge against Onnoghen stands on rather tentative footing.
According to Dr. Simeon Igbinedion, Sub-Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, and an International Criminal Law expert, Onnoghen’s removal was not bona fide, hence it is a non-starter.
He said, “I do not have all the facts of the case in regard to Justice Walter Onnoghen. But I am aware that the case brought by the Federal Government against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) constitutes mutated mutandis, the facts in the petition lodged against him before the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“If you have been following, as I have, media reports of what have been happening at the CCT, you will discover that the Federal Government could hardly maintain with evidence the charge they brought against the CJN.
“It is also the same facts mutatis mutandis that the EFCC brought, couching it however in the language of criminal law, against him before the NJC.
“The Chief Justice has denied all the charge. At the risk of sounding subjudice, I will hazard that the case against Onnoghen will fall flat.
“I believe this is so, because the charge is not bona fide. It is politically motivated.
“You will observe that the government scarcely did any serious preliminary investigation before moving against the man. It was while the trial was ongoing that they began shopping for evidence to nail him.
“Whether they will succeed at this looks to me as farfetched.”
Speaking in a similar tenor, Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr. Olusina Fasugba, argued that the CJN’s removal was politically motivated and hence the charge against him might likely go to nothing.
According to him, “The Chief Justice of Nigeria was suspended under very controversial circumstances. The whole thing has ‘K-leg’.
“As far as I am concerned the claim that the action was politically motivated is not an idle one, if you’ve been following fall-outs of the recent cycle of elections.
“So, I feel the government hurriedly removed the CJN and only to go to town looking for evidence to justify their action.
“The charge against Onnoghen is standing on a weak foundation. The National Judicial Council or indeed the CCT can only act based on evidence.
“The question remains: does the Federal Government have solid evidence to maintain their charge against Onnoghen?
“I doubt it, from the look of things. Well, let’s wait and see.”
In a similar development, embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, will on April 15 know when a verdict will be given in his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Onnoghen is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on a six-count charge of false and non-declaration of assets.
The development was sequel to the sudden closure of his case at the tribunal by his lawyer.
Having closed his case after calling one witness, Onnoghen’s counsel, at Wednesday’s proceeding, Chris Uche (SAN), informed the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, of the defendant’s intention not to call another witness.
In view of the development, the tribunal has given the prosecution and defence counsel three days each to file their final written addresses.
The tribunal further directed that the addresses would be finally adopted on April 15, after which the judgment date would be fixed.
The prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), had earlier closed his case after calling three witnesses.
It would be recalled that the lead defence counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had indicated on Monday that he would be calling “two or three witnesses,” to prove Onnoghen’s innocence.
More so, Onnoghen’s lawyer had, on Monday, applied for and caused the CCT chairman to issue a subpoena to be served on an officer of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mrs. Theresa Nwafor.
Mrs. Nwafor was to appear on Wednesday to testify as the second defence witness before Uche announced closure of Onnoghen’s case.
Uche did not ascertain whether or not Nwafor was in court.
“My lords, today is for continuation of trial. But my lords, after a deep review of the evidence led by the prosecution and the defence, the defence has come to conclusion and we have closed our case.
“Pursuant to paragraph 14 of the Practice Direction of this honourable tribunal, we apply to file our final written addresses,” Uche said.
Reacting, the prosecuting counsel informed the tribunal that Uche had given him prior knowledge to close the defence case on Wednesday.
He urged the tribunal to use its discretion to allot time for the filing of final addresses by the parties.

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