Nigeria: I Was Not Properly Served With Summons - CJN Onnoghen

Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (cartoon)
14 January 2019

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Samuel has denied receiving proper service to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to face trial over alleged false asset declaration.

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) filed a six-count charge against the CJN over alleged failure to declare his asset upon assumption of office as provided in Section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act C15, punishable under Section 23 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the same Act.

At the hearing on Monday, Justice Onnoghen, who is being represented by about 25 Senior Advocates of Nigeria and over 50 other lawyers, said he was not served in person as provided by law.

Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who is leading the defence team, argued that Section 123 (a) and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) mandated personal service of the defendant in criminal matters.

Olanipekun also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, adding that the defendant was not served with leave of court containing the date for the arraignment.

"Our appearance here is on protest. We are not yet at the stage of trial," he said.

Following the submission, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar asked the court registrar for the report of service of summons on the CJN.

The registrar informed the court that the CJN, on Friday, directed him to serve his personal secretary with the summons on his behalf.

A mild drama ensued when the chairman of the tribunal said the rule allows service on the defendant's next door neighbour.

But Olanipekun expressed surprise that service in a criminal matter can be served on a neighbour without an order of court for substituted service to that effect.

Prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar asked the court to order the trial of the defendant before any objection can be raised.

"We concede that personal service is mandatory in criminal matters under Section 123 of the ACJA, however arraignment has to be made before any objection," he said.

He however, suggested an adjournment to allow for fresh service to be personally served on the CJN.

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