Assets declaration: Lack of personal service stalls CJN Onnoghen arraignment
Says CCT lacks jurisdiction to try him
LACK of personal service of the charge sheet on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen on Monday, stalled his arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), just as he said the Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to try him on the charge preferred against him by the federal government.
Justice Onnoghen, who refused to appear before the Tribunal yesterday to answer to the six-count criminal charge, bordering on non-declaration of his assets and maintaining of domiciliary foreign accounts was however represented by 45 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and 55 other lawyers.
Recalled that the Tribunal, following an application by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had scheduled Monday, January 14, 2019, for the arraignment of the CJN.
However, when the matter was called up at about 10 am Monday morning, Onnoghen was not present in court for the arraignment, on the ground that he was not served personally with the criminal charges as required by law.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) who is heading the CJN’s defence team informed the three-member panel of the Tribunal headed by Danladi Yakubu Umar that the defendant has filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to entertain the suit.
Olanipekun also informed the court that the defendant was not in court because he has not been served with the summons of the Tribunal.
The prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), who argued that service was effected on the CJN said, the registrar of the court informed him that the CJN directed his personal secretary, one Sunday O. to accept service on his behalf.
But, Olanipekun had insisted that, in a criminal charge, service must be made personally on the defendant.
Umar, in conceding to the defectiveness of the service, urged the court to redirect service on the defendant with a directive that the service is made personally on the CJN.
Subsequently, the Tribunal adjourned the matter till January 22, 2019, or the arraignment of Onnoghen and the hearing of all applications relating to the matter.
Meanwhile, there was a heavy presence of security personnel at the CCT, Abuja, venue of the scheduled arraignment of the head of the nation’s judiciary.
Count one of the charge reads, “That you, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen CJN, GCON between June 8, 2005 to December 14, 2016 being a public officer, serving as a Judicial Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria failed to declare and submit a written declaration of all your assets and liabilities within the prescribed period of (3) months after being sworn-in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 8 day of June, 2005 and you thereby contravened the provisions of section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap 15 LFN 2004 and punishable under section 23(2) a, b and c of the same Act”.
In counts 2 to 6, Onnoghen was accused of falsely declaring his assets by omitting to declare funds in his domiciliary accounts as well as an e-saving account both in local and foreign currencies.