Onoghen’s trial not politically motivated ― Professor Osinbajo

Says Buhari in the dark about charges

VICE-PRESIDENT, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has said the arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was not politically motivated.

Professor Osinbajo made the declaration on Wednesday at the third Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) conference in Abuja.

The CJN has been charged before the CCT over a false declaration of assets. The petition was written by Dennis Aghanya, a close associate of President Buhari in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Addressing participants at the event, Professor Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari was not aware that the embattled Justice Onnoghen would be facing charges until last Saturday. The vice-president further declared that President Buhari has always insisted that the Presidency should not interfere in the operations of agencies of government.

He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari, his whole approach is that institutions should just do their work. I can tell by fact, that he did not know about this until Saturday evening.

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“He did not know that there will be any kind of arraignment till Saturday evening. He has said categorically, don’t interfere with what the institutions are doing. Sometimes it has consequences like we have today.

“My take is that I would rather not have a situation where senior members of the profession are being tried for an offence. I don’t feel good about it, as a matter of fact, I feel very sad about it, that it is going on at all. But that is my position on it but I want to say that this is the way it works.”

In every other part of the world, we hear, “oh, why is that only members of the opposition are being arrested but the opposition has been in office for 16 years nobody shared any space with them. So, if there is going to be any kind of prosecution it is likely to be members of the opposition but again the only two governors that have been convicted so far were APC governors.”

The Vice-President said the chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau has since been assured that the Presidency would be insulated from the operations of the agency.

“In the case of the Code of Conduct Bureau chairman, where these things are reported to, he is new, he is barely three weeks on the job but the specific instruction is that if you receive a petition, however, it is [you have to] go through the process.”

Making his contributions on the topic, Contemporary Challenges of ensuring press freedom online, chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja branch, Barrister Abimbola Kayode said Nigerians should be allowed to express themselves freely as he noted that a free press is an essential ingredient of democracy.

“People should be allowed to speak from the depth of their mind, we need the freedom to even ensure a free and fair election. The government should tolerate free press so that this democracy can survive beyond 2019. It is very important so that we have a free press, particularly the online medium.”

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