- Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other senior lawyers have continued to disagree over the trial of CJN Walter Onnoghen
- Chief Justice of Nigeria Onnoghen is facing trial for alleged false assets declaration
- While some think the CJN should be made to face National Judicial Council (NJC), others support him facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal
The looming trial of the Chief Juctice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over his alleged false assets declaration, has led to several debates in every corner of the nation.
While some people are in support of the CJN being arraigned, others have kicked against it and warned the federal government to tread carefully to avoid crisis in Nigeria.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) Aare Afe Babalola and Itsey Sagay seem to be on different sides of this debate.
The Nation reports that Afe Babalola said Justice Onnonghen should have been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC) instead of being taken before the CCT.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman Itse Sagay, however, disagree with Babalola.
The Court of Appeal had held in the Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa case that it would amount to the usurpation of NJC’s powers if any judicial officer commits a professional misconduct within the scope of his duty and is investigated, arrested and subsequently prosecuted without a formal complaint/report to the NJC.
Sagay said: “I want to make a few points. The first is that the Nganjiwa case, as far as I’m concerned, is unconstitutional. That judgment was unconstitutional. It’s an illegal judgment. It is an illicit attempt by some Justices of the Court of Appeal to give themselves immunity contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.
“The Constitution has named those entitled to immunity – the President, Vice President, governors and deputy governors.
“What these Justices tried to do is to take over the job of the National Assembly, amend the Constitution and then hide themselves inside as those who are immune from prosecution. To me, it’s illegal and unconstitutional.
“Number two, I’ve read the Nganjiwa judgment. It’s a judgment limited to a judge who was acting as a judicial officer, who was hearing a case and in the process was found guilty of misconduct in the hearing of that case.
“This matter that has just occurred has nothing to do with a case in court. It has something common to all public officers before you take an office. So, there’s a major distinction. The Nganjiwa case does not cover this situation
“Thirdly, we’re talking of the CJN, head of a branch of government; in fact, I’ll say head of the most important branch of the government, because they’re the arbiters of anything that goes wrong in the other two arms.
“It is said that Julius Ceasar’s wife must be above board. If I’m the Chief Justice, even a judge, and you bring such a charge against me, I will not contest jurisdiction. If I contest jurisdiction and win, you’re still going to say: ‘But you did it’.
“Rather, I’ll waive the issue of jurisdiction, because my status is so high that I must have a clean image before the world, so that the institution I represent may not be tainted."
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According to him, those hiding behind jurisdiction are trying to cover up iniquities of some sort.
He said those cases, including that of looters, that went on for 12 years was because of the issue of jurisdiction.
“I think at the level of the officer we’re talking about now, we shouldn’t be talking of jurisdiction. We should be talking of the substance. Did he or did he not do it? That’s all,” he added.
Legit.ng earlier reported that the forum of south-south governors has urged Onnoghen not to honour the invitation to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which was scheduled for Monday, January 14.
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