Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen will have to face trial on Monday, January 14, 2019, for allegedly breaching asset-declaration rules as ordered by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The trial will be held at the premises of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi, commercial neighbourhood in Abuja.
The Nigerian government filed charges against Mr. Onnoghen last week, accusing him of asset declaration offenses. It was after the controversial crackdown on judges carried out back in 2016 that Mr. Onnoghen partially declared his asset. But, he didn’t disclose a series of bank accounts, denominated in local and foreign currencies, linked to him at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Abuja. The government has reportedly filed six charges of non-fraudulent declaration of assets by Mr. Onnoghen. The trial could likely strain relations between the judicial and the executive arms of the federal government,
The Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, as well as some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), have expressed their disappointment over the action.
In a statement, Atiku warned against the forceful removal of the CJN. He also faulted the CCB for moving the case to the CCT. He said Nigerians will not accept any attempt by the Buhari presidency to intimidate the judiciary.
Notably, around 150 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, have volunteered to defend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, reported Sahara Reporters.
Senior Constitutional lawyer, Sabastine Tartenger Hon, told Daily Trust the number of eminent lawyers that have volunteered to defend the CJN might even be more than 150. He described the six-count criminal charge against the CJN as “a deliberate attempt to gag the judiciary”. He has called out Walter to be strong and not to heed to what he termed as an “unholy call” for him to step aside.