Embattled and suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Samuel Onnoghen, after all said and done, was eventually docked at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Friday, February 15, 2019 over allegations bordering on non-declaration of assets.
YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine gathered that Onnoghen’s mounting of the dock, however, came with so much drama, just like it happened before and even on the day he eventually appeared. Pleading not guilty after the charges were read to him, the erstwhile CJN who was attired in a pair of gray trousers, white shirt, light yellow tie and black jacket, declined an offer of a seat by the CCT Chairman.
“My Lord, sit down”, Danladi Umar, the Tribunal Chairman had urged Onnoghen, obviously out of courtesy. But responding, the suspended CJN who stood all through declined the offer, insisting, “I thank you for the privilege. When I need it I will sit down.”
Still looking calm and collected, Umar, interestingly, quipped ‘Granted!’ immediately Onnoghen’s counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, applied for his bail on self recognisance.
Moving his request a notch higher, Uche asked for the vacation of the bench warrant earlier issued against his client, which was again granted.
The prosecution counsel, Ibrahim Musa, surprisingly, never objected to the two requests. Thus, the matter was adjourned to March 11.
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), it would be recalled, had in a 6-counts charge filed at the CCT on January 11 accused Onnoghen of failure to declare his assets between June 2005 and December 2016 contrary to provisions of section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C15 LFN 2004, all punishable under section 23(2) a, b, and c of the same Act.
Initially scheduled for arraignment on January 14, the suspended CJN did not turn up. He was equally missing at the tribunal on January 22, January 28, February 4 and February 13, which led the tribunal to issue a warrant for his arrest on February 13.
Ruling on the application to quash his warrant of arrest, the tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, stated that “The bench warrant earlier issued, since the defendant made himself available voluntarily without the execution of the bench warrant, the tribunal hereby sets aside the warrant on the condition that the defendant must henceforth make himself available throughout the trial.”