6 February 2019

Nigeria: Onnoghen Asks CCT Chairman to Hands Off Case

Photo: Vanguard
Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Abuja — The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has asked the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself from his trial on the grounds of likelihood of bias.

The embattled CJN alleged that the chairman had constructively convicted him without hearing him or formally arraigning him before the tribunal.

Onnoghen stated that the CCT chairman is a tainted arbiter because he is facing a bribery charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and could trade the charge to convict him for a plea-bargaining.

He stated this in a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Rule 12(1) and (1A) of the revised Code of Conduct for judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2016, filed in the registry of the CCT on Monday.

Listed as counsel in the motion are Chris Uche (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), Okon Efut (SAN), Chief Ogwu Onoja (SAN), Noah Abdul and George Ibrahim.

Onnoghen through his lawyers stated that Umar had authored and signed an exparte order directing an un-convicted man to step aside as the CJN on account of a charge not yet before him, which is in itself a conviction prior to arraignment and plea/trial.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 25 suspended Onnoghen and swore-in Tanko Muhammad as Acting CJN based on an exparte order granted by the CCT chairman.

In his grounds of application, he stated that, "The chairman on January 23, 2019 entertained a motion exparte not moved by any known prosecutor bearing the same title, charge number and purported accused person/defendant which substantially predetermined the guilt of the defendant without an arraignment.

"Consequent upon paragraphs IV above, the learned chairman (Hon. Danladi Umar) who purportedly moved, made and signed the order has put himself in the position of the prosecutor, judge and jury to the clear prejudice and bias against the defendant.

"The learned chairman of the CCT is a tainted arbiter by reason of a criminal charge at the instance of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for receiving money bribe in the sum of N10million in charge No: CR/109/18 in FCT High Court by an organ under the supervision of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, incidentally the prosecutor and complainant in this matter, such that with such sword of Damocles hanging over him, and himself not likely to be a fair arbiter, but instead more likely to trade in the charges against him in quasi plea bargaining in the charge against him and enter summary conviction in this proceedings to please the prosecutor."

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