CCT Grants Justice Onnoghen Bail on Self-Recognition
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen has pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge the Federal Government leveled against him and was subsequently granted bail on self-recognition.
Justice Onnoghen, who mounted the dock at exactly 10:15am, equally persuaded the Mr. Danladi Umar led tribunal, to vacate the arrest warrant that was issued against him on Wednesday.
However, there was a mild drama at the tribunal when Justice Onnoghen politely rejected an offer of a seat in the dock made to him by CCT Boss.
Danladi Umar had expressed a surprise to find Onnoghen still standing minutes after he first asked tribunal officials to give him a seat in the dock.
Seeing Onnoghen still standing, Umar wondered if his instruction that the CJN be offered a seat had not been complied with.
Realising there was a seat in the dock, Umar faced Onnoghen’s direction smiling and said “My Lord, sit down!”
After seeing that Onnoghen was not interested in the offer, Umar raised his voice as he repeated the offer.
But Onnoghen said, “I will use the seat when I need it.”
The government had in the charge marked CCT/01/2019, alleged that Onnoghen who was suspended from office on January 25 by President Muhammadu Buhari, failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law.
He was accused of operating foreign bank accounts since 2011, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. Onnoghen had on four previous dates, declined to appear before the tribunal which he contended lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the charge against him.
Consequently, the tribunal, ordered key security agencies in the country to arrest Onnoghen and produce him for trial. The tribunal specifically directed the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, to execute the arrest warrant.
However, the order was not carried out as the suspended CJN, voluntarily appeared before the tribunal to enter his plea to the charge. Shortly after his arraignment, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, applied for his client to be granted bail on self-recognizance.
The application was accordingly granted by the CCT Chairman. The pending motions would be heard on March 11, 2019.
Immediately after the arraignment, the counsel to Onnoghen, Chris Uche (SAN) and the Counsel to Federal Government Musa Ibrahim spoke with journalists
Chris Uche said “Today February 15, 2019 is a sad day for Nigeria’s democracy, it is a sad day for Nigeria’s judiciary and it is a sad day for the rule of law.
“Today, Onnoghen has been made to suffer indignity to take the plea in the way it was done in the charges against him. For us as concern lawyers, our struggle is for the maintenance of the rule of law, separation of power and obedient to the due process.
“The world would still know the truth that there is more to this trial of Justice Onnoghen before this Tribunal.
Also speaking, Barrister Musa Ibrahim from Federal Ministry of Justice said that “It is sad day for the legal profession because the entire legal profession is on trial but the law is a law and must take its course.”
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