CJN’s Trial: It Is Impossible For President Buhari Not To Be Aware – Shehu Sani 

 

The Senator representing Kaduna Central in the National Assembly, Shehu Sani, says it is impossible for President Muhammadu Buhari not to be aware of the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

During an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Thursday, the Senator insisted that the CJN cannot be summoned for such a trial without the President’s knowledge.

“If you can go back to the trend of events in the last three years, not being aware doesn’t seem to be lack of knowledge,” he said.

“But each time you hear the President not being aware, I think he is trying to answer the question by being neutral or evasive about it.”

The lawmaker added, “It is very much impossible for such a high-profile personality in the country in the person of the Chief Justice of the Federation; it is impossible for him (Buhari) not to be aware.”

Justice Onnoghen is being prosecuted by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

Earlier, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo absolved the President of having a hand in Justice Onnoghen’s trial, noting that he (Buhari) was not aware of the development.

READ ALSO: ‘I Feel Very Sad’, Osinbajo Reacts To CJN Onnoghen’s Trial

 

But Senator Sani insisted that it was impossible for the nation’s top judicial officer to be summoned for trial without the President’s knowledge.

He alleged, “Interpreting his own political positions many times means that being not aware simply is being evasive of taking responsibility. He should know that the buck stops at his table.

“It is not possible for the Chief Justice of the Federation to be summoned for such a trial without the President knowing what is happening.”

The Senator stressed that the trial has created emotions and what he described as “bad blood” between South-South and the Northern regions.

He also accused the ruling political class of intimidating the judiciary and trying to silence the CJN for not dancing to their tune.

Justice Onnoghen is facing six counts bordering on failure to declare his assets and operating a domiciliary account, among other charges.

The planned arraignment of the CJN has sparked widespread criticism from prominent Nigerians and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which warned against intimidating the judiciary.

Buhari, Onnoghen Shake Hands At Armed Forces Remembrance Day

 

President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, on Tuesday shook hands at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Abuja.

This is the first time both men will be seen meeting publicly after the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) filed charges against the CJN at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Justice Onnoghen was part of the dignitaries with President Buhari who laid the wreath as a sign of honour to the fallen heroes.

READ ALSO: Full Charges Against CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen

See more pictures from the event below;

The government is moving to arraign Justice Onnoghen for alleged failure to declare his assets and operating a domiciliary account.

The tribunal had said the charges were filed by the CCB, based on a petition signed by the Executive Secretary of the anti-corruption research data-based initiative, Dennis Aghanya.

Justice Onnoghen: Assault, Intimidation And Desecration Of Judiciary Must Stop, Says NBA

Walter Onnoghen Sworn-In As Chief Justice Of Nigeria
Justice Walter Onnoghen

 

The Nigerian Bar Association has said that the trial of Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”) is an assault on the Judiciary. 

According to the NBA, the media trial of the embattled chief justice does not follow the rule of law, hence should be stopped.

The NBA amongst other things decried the speed at which the case is being handled, claiming that all due protocols have been intentionally left unobserved.

“We have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration!

It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT” the NBA said.

Below is the full statement containing the position of the NBA in the trial of  Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”).

“Nigerians have witnessed again the targeted assault of the judiciary by agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) epitomized by today’s media trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”).

“According to media reports which have now been validated by the Statement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) that was released today an application was “filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges” and that the CCT “will commence the trial on Monday, 14th January 2019”.


RELATED:

CCB Files Criminal Charges Against Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Says CCT

Full Charges Against CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen


“The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation, and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.

“In Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him.

“As the Court pointed out, these requirements of the law are anchored on the overriding principles of separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and on the need to preserve, promote and protect the independence of the judiciary.

“Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government.

“In Nganjiwa v FRN (supra), the Court of Appeal made reference to Rule 3 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of February 2016 (“Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”) and held that the said Rule 3 “makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the Law”.

“The provisions in regard to assets declaration as they apply to all public officers including the CJN are contained in both the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991, the enabling law that establishes both the Code of
Conduct Bureau (“CCB”) and the CCT.

“The fidelity which judicial officers, therefore, owe “to the Constitution and the Law” pursuant to Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers encompasses compliance with the provisions relating to assets declarations as contained in the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

“Any infraction in that regard by a judicial officer, as the Court of Appeal rightly held, constitutes misconduct by the judicial officer and becomes the subject matter for discipline by the NJC as a condition precedent to any possible prosecution of the judicial officer by any of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies.

“Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination?

“The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes!

“If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes
prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.

“We still wonder why the FGN choose to deviate from the laid down and explicit provisions of the law as expounded in Nganjiwa v FRN (supra). Could it be that it was misadvised? Or is this a naked show of power and force by agencies of the FGN? And why embark on the media trial of the CJN?

“This, unfortunately, is a predilection of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies with the possible exception of the Federal Ministry of Justice. As the NBA pointed out in its International Anti-Corruption Day Statement that was issued on 09 December 2018 “media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices . . . amount to corruption itself.

“Indeed, those orchestrated media trials degrade and corrupt the justice administration system quite apart from the incalculable (but obviously intended) damage that it does to persons who may ultimately be discharged and acquitted.

“In point of fact, it is corrupt practice to use as a license or hide under the cover of the fight against corruption to recklessly destroy the names, characters, and reputations of persons who have not been found guilty of corrupt practices by competent courts and who may ultimately be pronounced innocent of such charges.”

“These media trials must, alongside the on-going desecration and assault of the judiciary, cease forthwith.

“There are two final issues that we must touch upon in this Statement, albeit, briefly. First, could it possibly be a coincidence that the current assault on the judiciary is taking place only weeks to the 2019 National Election? Apart from the conduct itself being wrongful and deplorable, its timing is condemnable. FGN will find it difficult to convince any reasonable person that its assault against the CJN and by extension the judiciary is not aimed at emasculating that arm of the government and intimidating our Judges ahead of the 2019 National Elections.

“In our afore-referenced International Anti-Corruption Day Statement, the
NBA had deplored “conducts that qualify as . . . political non-accountability, absence of transparency and impunity in public service.” The FGN’s conduct in this instance qualifies, amongst others, as “impunity in public service”.

“As a final point, it is also difficult for a disinterested observer not to see a pattern of consistent assault by agencies of the FGN on the heads of the two independent arms of government, to wit, the legislature and the judiciary, starting with the prosecution of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the CCT and now, the ill-fated prosecution of the CJN before the same CCT.

“The impression must not be created that the agencies of the Executive arm of the FGN are interested in destabilizing and laying prostrate the other arms of the Government and in the process eliminating and destroying any and all voices of dissent and checks and balances.

“That is not desirable for the democracy that we strive to build neither is it good for the image of the Government. We urge restraint on the part of Government and demand that the CCB follow due process in proceeding against the CJN by complying with Nganjiwa’s Judgment (supra) and other similar judicial precedents.

“This continuing attack on the justice sector must cease forthwith.

“FGN and its agencies must desist from debasing the rule of law.

“Paul Usoro, SAN

President”.

I’ve Received 1,124 Cases Of Corruption – Onnoghen

I’ve Received 1,124 Cases Of Corruption – Onnoghen
File photo: Justice Walter Onnoghen

 

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has received 1,124 corruption cases from various courts across the country.

This followed the directive of the CJN, who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, to the Heads of Court to compile and submit a compendium of all corruption cases being handled by their various jurisdictions.

Justice Onnoghen revealed the figure on Wednesday at the formal inauguration of the Corruption and other Financial Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) at the NJC complex in Abuja.

He said the committee was formed as part of the commitment of the judiciary to lend support to the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to rid Nigeria of corruption.

He promised that all aspects of judicial duties would be scrutinised, improved and re-aligned towards reform, hinting that all judicial institutions and Heads of Courts have been advised to provide COTRIMCO with all the necessary information and support to make decisions from informed perspective.

The CJN said that the committee should have been headed by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, who withdrew on personal ground.

He was, however, hopeful that the respected judicial officer would be available for other national judicial assignments in the near future.

He also paid tributes to the members of COTRIMCO for accepting to serve their fatherland through the assignment, despite their numerous other engagements.

Justice Onnoghen noted that the members were selected purely on merit and recognition of their track records of service to their fatherland, as well as contributions to the development of the country’s law and jurisprudence.

He urged them to come up with strategies that would help eliminate the delays and its attendant effects on the speedy disposal of corruption cases, saying it was one of the ways they could justify the high level of public confidence reposed in the committee.

He also advised the prosecution and defence counsel to shun all unethical antics employed to delay hearing and determination of corruption cases as Heads of Courts have been directed to report such counsel.

The CJN warned that such counsel would be referred to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (in the case of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria) or the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (in the case of other legal practitioners) for staff disciplinary measures.

In his response, chairman of the committee, Justice Suleiman Galadima, thanked the Chief Justice for inviting them to serve the nation.

He also assured him that the members would bring to bear their wealth of experiences to ensure the purpose for which the committee was set up, adding that it would strictly adhere to the terms of reference.

This was contained in a statement signed by the NJC Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye.

SERAP Asks CJN To Review Composition Of Salami Committee

Chief Justice Of Nigeria Not Under Investigation – EFCC
File photo: Walter Onnoghen

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has appealed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Water Onnoghen, to urgently revisit and review the composition of the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) headed by Justice Ayo Salami.

In an open letter sent to the CJN, who is Chairman of the National Judicial Council, SERAP said the review would help to “remove the risk of apparent and potential conflicts between the work of the Committee and the private practice of some of its members who are handling high-profile cases of corruption involving politically exposed persons (PEPs).”

The organisation proposed that for the Committee to perform its tasks effectively and with propriety, it should preferably be composed entirely of members of the judiciary, particularly drawn from available pool of brilliant and incorruptible retired judges.

In the letter dated October 3 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said, “While international law does not prohibit some representation of the legal profession or academics, we urge your Lordship to select candidates from these fields to the Salami committee based on their demonstrable commitment to the fight against corruption, and after extensive consultation, and a thorough scrutiny of the candidates’ past record of legal practice, to eliminate all possibilities of bias and conflict of interest.”

According to SERAP, doing this “would ensure accountability keeping the independence of the judiciary intact and uncompromised.”

The organisation believes until the issues raised in its letter are satisfactorily addressed, Nigerians would have a doubt in their mind as to the ability of the Committee to discharge its mandates effectively.

“It is important for the Salami Committee to function in a way that could preserve judicial independence, provide information for judges to improve their performance, and increase the public’s confidence in the courts,” it said.

The letter read in part: “SERAP urges your Lordship to urgently revisit, review, and reconsider the membership of the Salami committee to ensure that members currently handling high-profile corruption cases involving PEPs are removed.

“This proposal aims solely to remove the risk of apparent and potential conflicts between the work of the committee and the private practice of some of its members who are handling high-profile cases of corruption involving PEPs and to ensure the independence, impartiality, integrity, and accountability of the judiciary.

“SERAP believes that judicial accountability should be secured in a way that is harmonious with, and not damaging to, the essential character and functions of the judicial office. A system of fair, effective and trustworthy judicial performance evaluation promotes public confidence in the judiciary, which, in turn, is essential to judicial independence.

“SERAP also urges your Lordship to ensure that the Salami committee can manage its own budget and has enough human and financial resources to properly function with independence. The Salami committee should also be accountable for its activities, to avoid the possible public perception of bias and conflict of interest.

“SERAP welcomes the commitment by your Lordship to promote judicial accountability and combat corruption in the judiciary. We understand that accountability mechanism would encourage justice operators to behave with integrity and in line with their code of ethics and conduct.

“We share your Lordship’s vision of a judiciary that is corruption-free and demonstrates the fundamental principles of independence, impartiality, and integrity. An independent and impartial judiciary is indeed essential for the enjoyment of the right to a fair trial and effective and efficient administration of justice, as well as the credibility of the entire justice system.

“However, SERAP is seriously concerned that rather than promoting judicial accountability, the Committee as presently constituted could be used to interfere with the independence, impartiality, and integrity of the judiciary. SERAP notes that the Preamble to the Bangalore Principles states that judges are accountable for their conduct to appropriate institutions established to maintain judicial standards, which must themselves independent and impartial.

“Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has stated that bodies responsible for evaluating performance of judges should be composed either entirely or with a majority of judges, including brilliant and incorruptible retired judges.

“The OECD Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service provides that, “A conflict of interest involves a conflict between the public duty and private interests of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of [his/her] official duties and responsibilities.

“In SERAP’s view, ‘conflict of interest’ is a situation in which a person, such as a public official, employee, or a professional, has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

“Accountability and independence are two sides of the same coin: accountability ensures that judges perform their constitutional role, and judicial independence protects judges from pressures that would pull them out of that role. True judicial accountability furthers another necessary characteristic of a functioning judiciary: judicial integrity. Judicial independence means that judicial officers, in performing their duty, should be free of inappropriate governmental or private influences.

“According to our information, the National Judicial Council (NJC) headed by your Lordship has approved the appointment of retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami as appointed chairman, Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO). The 15-man committee, which is expected to operate within the council, also has some judges and senior lawyers as members.

“They include Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah; Chief Judge of Imo State, Justice P.O. Nnadi; Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro and Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice M. L. Abimbola. Others are representative of NJC; representative of non-governmental organisations, representative of Ministry of Justice; representative of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN); President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN); Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Mr J.B Daudu (SAN); Mr Augustine Alegeh (SAN) and Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN).”

EFCC Commends CJN For Establishing Anti-Corruption Courts

Chief Justice Of Nigeria Not Under Investigation – EFCC
File photo: Walter Onnoghen

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has described as a welcome development, the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to heads of divisions of courts to establish special anti-corruption courts across the country.

Justice Onnoghen had announced the creation of special court for corruption cases on Monday at the special session of the Supreme Court where 29 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) were admitted to the inner bar.

In order for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to monitor and effectively enforce the foregoing Policy, the CJN said an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee would be constituted at the next NJC meeting.

He had also directed heads of courts to clamp down on both prosecution and defence counsel who indulge in the unethical practice of deploying delay tactics to stall criminal trials.

The Commission described the development as a right step in the right direction, with the potentials of curtailing the unnecessary delays in the prosecution of corruption cases.

EFCC Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, who applauded the initiative on Wednesday, was hopeful that the innovation would strengthen the fight against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.

“The spate of frivolous and unwarranted adjournments at the instances of the defence for the purpose of stalling proceedings is over. With special courts, cases stand great chances of being disposed of quickly.

“We had clamoured for the creation of special or dedicated courts for over six years; so, the action of the CJN is commendable,” Magu said in a statement issued by the Commission’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren.

Chief Justice Of Nigeria Not Under Investigation – EFCC

Chief Justice Of Nigeria Not Under Investigation – EFCC
Walter Onnoghen

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has denied reports that it is currently investigating the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, who faulted the claim in a statement on Wednesday, said linking the source of the report to the agency was mischievous.

“It is important to state that this report did not emanate from the EFCC and the allusion to ‘an EFCC source’ is diversionary and mischievous,” Uwujaren said.

“For the avoidance of doubt, cases under investigation communicated to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the Commission are classified information and it is troubling how such would be leaked to the media.”

A report had emerged earlier on Wednesday that the EFCC was investigating a list of high profile persons, including the CJN and former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Others on the purported list are Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and Justice Abdu Kafarati of the Federal High Court.

“The mastermind of this leak is out to create disaffection between the Commission and, particularly, the Judiciary.

“The Commission wishes to state categorically that it is currently not investigating Justices Onnoghen and Kafarati,” Uwujaren insisted.

He, however, said while Onnoghen was being considered for his present position, the EFCC received some petitions which were investigated and found to be without merit and discarded.

The agency lamented that much damage had been done to its investigation activities by the leak, especially as some of the cases mentioned were at preliminary stages of investigation.