Assets declaration: NJC gets fresh petition against Onnoghen

Gives him seven days to respond

MORE troubles for the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed a fresh petition against him.

The National Judicial Council (NJC), at the end of its emergency meeting on Monday where it considered the responses of the suspended head of the nation’s judiciary and that of the acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to the three petitions brought before the Council against them.

The petition against Onnoghen borders on alleged non-declaration of assets, which was the case brought against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja after an earlier petition by Dennis Aghanya of the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI).

The acting CJN Muhammad, on the other hand, is facing allegation filed against him by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba accusing him (Justice Muhammad) of presenting himself to be sworn-in as acting CJN without the recommendation of the NJC.

The Director of Information of the NJC, Soji Oye, said in a statement that the Council has resolved to, “Constitute into the Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee in accordance with Regulation 17 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2017 and report to Council on the 13th of February 2019”.

Oye said in the statement that the NJC will reconvene tomorrow, Wednesday 13th February 2019 to still deliberate on the petitions against Justices Onnoghen and Muhammad.

The NJC spokesman further stated that the Council received a new petition written by the EFCC against Justice Onnoghen and forwarded it to him for his response within seven working days.

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The Council he said, reaffirmed its confidence in the former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi and will continue the meeting under his Interim Chairmanship.

Both Onnoghen and Muhammad, Chairman and Vice-chairman of the NJC respectively, had excused themselves from the meeting, which sole agenda was to deliberate on the petitions against them.

The federal government had slammed a six-count charge, bordering on non-declaration of assets against Justice Onnoghen before the Umar led CCT.

President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended Onnoghen and immediately swore-in Justice Muhammad as acting CJN, on the strength of an exparte order by the CCT.

Meanwhile, Onnoghen’s appeal before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him on the charge preferred against him by the federal government comes up for hearing today.

The suspended CJN, who is yet to be arraigned before the CCT, has asked the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar to hands-off from further participating in the hearing of his case on grounds of likelihood of bias.

He 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 EFCC and could trade the charge to convict him for a plea bargaining.

The CCT adjourned till tomorrow, February 13, 2019, for the suspended CJN to be arraigned to take his plea to the charges against him.