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Tribunal Decides Onnoghen’s Fate …SANs Want More Justices Probed

The Code of Conduct Tribunal will today deliver final judgment in the charges of false and non-declaration of assets instituted against Justice Walter Onnoghen, who reportedly resigned as the Chief Justice of Nigeria on April 4.

The Danladi Umar-led three-man bench fixed the date for judgment after the prosecution led by Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), and the defence led by Mr. Okon Efut (SAN), adopted their final addresses.

During the proceedings, the defence, in their final arguments, maintained that the prosecution failed to prove the six counts beyond reasonable doubt as required by law and urged the tribunal to dismiss the case.

Efut maintained that the statement made by Onnoghen to the Code of Conduct Bureau was not confessional as alleged by the prosecution.

He added that the charges, were incompetent and unconstitutional as they were based on the provisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Bureau Act which were in conflict with the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

But the prosecution said the defence team was only attempting to redefine what constituted “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

He urged the tribunal to hold that the prosecution indeed proved the case beyond reasonable doubt and “return a guilty verdict”.

Adjourning till Thursday for judgment, the tribunal chairman, said the verdict would be delivered along with two pending rulings on Onnoghen’s applications, one challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the case and another one asking the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from further presiding over the case for being allegedly bias.

Meanwhile some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, under the aegis of Justice Reform Project, have said the reported voluntary resignation of Justice Walter Onnoghen should not be the end of the corruption allegations levelled against him.

They said given the gravity of the allegations against Onnoghen, the law must take its course to show that it respects no one.

The SANs, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to subject all other judges to the same type of probe that Onnoghen went through to fish out other judges living above their legitimate means.

 In a statement on Tuesday, JRP, which consists of about 20 SANs, said it was important for Buhari to convince Nigerians that Onnoghen’s trial was not politically motivated.

The group said details of the allegations of financial mismanagement which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission levelled against Onnoghen in its petition to the National Judicial Council and Onnoghen’s response had “raised significant questions about the financial practices of the Nigerian judiciary and the various heads of courts”.

It, therefore, called on Buhari not to limit the probe to Onnoghen. The statement said, “Beyond Justice Onnoghen, JRP believes the revelations that have been made during the course of this affair necessitate that urgent steps be taken to identify and sanction all other judicial officers who are found to posses wealth that cannot be reconciled with their legitimate income or their asset declarations, two of the allegations made against Onnoghen.

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