CCT Orders Arrest of Suspended CJN, Onnoghen

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Wednesday, issued an arrest warrant on the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria ((CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The tribunal ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services to arrest and produce the suspended Justice Onnoghen in court in 48 hours.
Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, issued the bench warrant on Onnoghen following his absence in court for arraignment.
The tribunal had at the last adjourned date on February 4, ordered that Onnoghen must make himself available in court, Wednesday, February 13, for arraignment over alleged failure to declare his assets.
The tribunal had said without making himself available to take his plea, it would not entertain any application from the suspended CJN.
When the matter came up yesterday, Onnoghen was not in court and his lawyers led by Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), prayed the court to take all pending applications relating to the trial, particularly the issue of the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The senior counsel insisted that the issue of jurisdiction must be determined one way or another before the tribunal could proceed to take further motions.
He therefore prayed the tribunal to allow the issue of jurisdiction being the foundation of the trial to be resolved in the interest of justice.
But counsel to the Federal government, Aliyu Umar (SAN), opposed the application by Onnoghen’s counsel and insisted that the issue of the defendant’s absence in court to take his plea, must be first addressed.
He said that until the defendant appears physically in court, the issue of jurisdiction and other motions cannot be taken, adding that while in court, Onnoghen has the right to refused to take plea but has no right to refuse to appear in court.
The counsel recalled that since January 14, when Onnoghen ought to have been arraigned, he was not in court and that even after the service of the charge had been effected on Onnoghen in person, he still did not appear in court.
The government lawyer, who cited authorities to support his submissions promised to make the authorities available to the tribunal to enable it arrived at a just conclusion.
However, in a surprise move, the CCT Chairman brought out a written ruling and read almost immediately the government lawyer concluded his argument.
In the ruling, Umar ordered that a bench warrant be issued against Onnoghen for his arrest either by the Inspector General of Police or the Director General of the Department of State Services and to produce him before the tribunal this Friday.
Umar said that Onnoghen must be in the dock on Friday unfailingly, adding that he must first submit himself to the jurisdiction of the tribunal and raise whatever objection he has to the trial thereafter.
“I recall at the last adjournment that the defendant must appear in court today. My memory is Intact, but since he has chosen not to be in court, this tribunal has no option other than to use machinery at its disposal to compel the appearance in court.
“For this reason, bench warrant is hereby issued to the Inspector General of Police or the Director General of the Department of State Services to produce him before this tribunal on Friday.
“He must be in the dock on Friday unfailingly”, he said.
Shortly after the ruling, the Federal government lawyer, drew the attention of the Chairman to the fact that, the Friday is an eve of the presidential election but, Umar dismissed the information and insisted that Onnoghen must be brought before him on the next adjourned date.
Umar, who did not allow the two other members of the tribunal to make input or react to the ruling announced that the matter be adjourned till Friday.

Author: News Editor

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