18 January 2019

Nigeria: El-Rufai Condemns South-South Governors Over Position On Onnoghen's Trial

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has taken a swipe at his counterparts from Nigeria's South-south over the latter's "painful' position on the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria for alleged false asset declaration.

The federal government arraigned the Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen, on Monday, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal after authorities received a petition exposing alleged violations in assets filings.

But before the arraignment, the six governors of the South-south, Mr Onnoghen's region, had issued a statement, condemning the trial, and accused the executive arm of a plan to weaken the country's judicial arm.

"One of the most painful things I have experienced in the last two weeks, was the statement by the governors of the South-south, justifying that non-declaration of assets is nothing, is a non-issue because the Chief Justice is from the South-south," Mr El-Rufai said, while speaking on Channels Television on Thursday.

But apart from the governors, senior lawyers, including Femi Falana and Olisa Agbakoba, have also expressed opposition to the CJN's trial.

The lawyers, citing a judicial precedent, argued that a serving judge like Mr Onnoghen could not be tried at a court, except after the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

Mr Onnoghen, who was absent at his trial on Monday, admitted to the allegations in his statement to the CCB. He, however, said he 'forgot' to declare, initially, some of his assets, including significant amounts in domiciliary accounts.

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