Verdict is constitutional- Defence counsel
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has convicted suspended Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen of false asset declaration leveled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau(CCB).
The CTT Chairman, Danladi Umar who read the lead judgment said Onnoghen breached the law and the six charges brought against him by the federal government was proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.
According to Umar aside being barred from holding public office for 10 years, Onnoghen would also forfeit the undeclared funds in the five accounts and also removed from office as CJN.
The judgment read in part “The defendant is hereby removed from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman of the National Judicial Council and the Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission. The defendant is hereby banned from holding public office for 10 years.” “The money in the five accounts which the defendant has failed to declare and disclose its source is hereby confiscated, seized and forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria as the money was acquired illegally and the defendant has failed to adduce any evidence how he acquired the money.”
Before imposing the sentence on him, Umar had given Onnoghen the opportunity to plead for mercy when he asked him if he had any comment to make. Onnoghen however bowed and said “No Comment.”
The Defence team in its reaction, however, described the CCT verdict as “premeditated and unconstitutional”
A visibly angry Okon Efut who led the defense team to the tribunal in a brief interview with journalists said the CCT had made up its mind to return a guilty verdict regardless of the facts and arguments of the defense team.
According to him why would Umar go beyond his brief to order that Onnoghen be removed from office when he had already resigned two weeks ago.
He hinted that Onnoghen might appeal the verdict of the tribunal stressing that “we would take it to the highest level”
“We know that all is not over in this matter. The wheel of justice grinds slowly. It grinds slowly but surely. But this is not a matter that will end here. We shall avail ourselves of all the processes and the hierarchy of the judiciary.”
“The conviction is unconstitutional. It is a breach of fair hearing.
“Before this day, on January 23, 2019, the same judgment had been passed, removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria without a fair hearing.
“So, it was fait accompli, it was premeditated. Judgment has been passed before today. Today’s judgment is just a formality.
“We hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the Constitution of Nigeria, but it has also breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity, and good conscience.
“It has not only been able to pass judgment, but it has also convicted on an offense that was never charged.