The trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), which commenced on Monday has been adjourned to Tuesday, January 22, 2019.
Justice Onnoghen who is facing six charges bordering on failure to declare his assets and operating a domiciliary account, among other charges did not appear in the tribunal on Monday.
Danladi Umar, the Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman, called Mr Onnoghen’s case at about 10:08 on Monday, and the chief justice was absent.
The defendant is represented by 71 lawyers and out of the number 46 are Senior Advocate of Nigeria while the prosecution represented by five lawyers is led by Aliyu Umar (SAN).
Wole Olanipekun, a senior Nigerian lawyer, who is leading a team of other senior lawyers entered defence for the chief justice, began by challenging the jurisdiction of the case.
“You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter,” Mr Olanipekun said to the tribunal chairman.
Mr Olanipekun said Mr Onnoghen has not been indicted by the National Judicial Council as legally required of serving judges before his matter was picked up by the tribunal following a petition filed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Mr Olanipekun also said Mr Onnoghen was not given enough time to prepare for his arraignment before being summoned by the tribunal.
The case has been adjourned to Tuesday, January 22.
Meanwhile, five out of the six governors from the South-South Governors Forum have asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen not to honour the summons from the Code of Conduct Bureau to appear before the Code of Conduct tribunal for alleged non-declaration of assets.
The governors made the call after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Sunday.
“We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called Court summon from the CCB and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters,” the governors said in a communique issued after the meeting.
“While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such and action must always be anchored on the rule of law.”
The meeting was attended by the governors of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers with Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State who is a member of the All Progressives Congress absent.
Bayelsa State Governor, Mr Seriake Dickson, who is the Chairman of the forum had summoned the emergency meeting on Saturday after the CCT announced that the CCB had filed six charges against the CJN with the trial scheduled to start on Monday.
In the communique, which was read by Governor Dickson after the meeting, the governors said the move by the CCB was unacceptable.
They argued that the legal procedures for investigating allegations of misconduct against judicial officials were not followed in that matter and accused the executive of targetting other arms of government.
The governors also blasted the Muhammadu Buhari administration for its treatment of the South-South.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state on institutions of state including the National Assembly and judiciary,” they said.
To them, the move is reflective “of the South-South story of endless marginalization and intimidation”.
“The unceremonious removal of Mathew Seiyefa, former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service and his replacement is still very fresh,” they added.
“We not that that unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular, the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law.”