A mild drama played out at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), in Abuja, Friday, as tribunal dismissed a no case submission filed by the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The tribunal Chairman, Dalandi Umar, had immediately after dismissing the no case submission asked Onnoghen to open his defence on Monday, April 1.
But the defence team led by Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) pleaded with the Chairman to extend the time so as to allow them prepare their defence.
Awomolo pleaded with him that Monday was too close but Umar insisted, without consulting with other two members of the tribunal, that Onnoghen must opened his defence on Monday.
“You are oppressing us sir, Monday is too close, we need time to study the record of proceedings and the ruling to prepare for our defence,” Awomolo said raising his voice.
At this, the Chairman rose abruptly, to bring the session to an unexpected end.
Meanwhile, speaking with reporters outside the court room, Awomolo lamented the death of justice in Nigeria.
“We cannot fight corruption with corrupt process. Righteous exhorts a nation while sin is a reproach. What we saw today is very regrettable. The Chairman did not even allow two members of the panel to talk he just stood up and left.”
Awomolo, however, said a notice of appeal against the ruling was going to be filed immediately.
Federal government, through the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), had filed a six count charge against Onnoghen, alleging non declaration of assets.
Umar while delivering a ruling Friday held that the evidence of prosecution witness is weighty enough for the suspended CJN to open his defence.
Earlir, Onnoghen had through Awomolo argued in the no case submission, that prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case to prove the allegations.
But prosecution insisted that Onnoghen has a case to answer based on the testimonies of its witnesses.
Onnoghen had asked the tribunal to dismiss and acquit him of the charge against him for lacking in merit.
The suspended CJN said the prosecution has not been able to establish a case against him on the grounds that the CCB did not substantially comply with its law.
According to Awomolo, CCB did not verify the form filled by Onnoghen as admitted by the prosecution witness 2.
He argued that the assets declaration form, which Onnoghen is being accused of not filing properly was neither verified by the authorised persons nor the department saddled with the responsibilities.
“That the defendant did not fill the assets declaration form, no investigation to show that it was done. Prosecution witness 2 said there is a register where all submitted forms are filed and a column to fill after investigating the form.
“The witness said the manager of this register neither the registrar nor the director nor department officer investigated the defendant’s form.”
He also submitted that the maker of exhibit one (petitioner) was not brought to the court to testify.
“The petition amount to hearsay and should be expunged from record”, he said.
He cited 84 of the Evidence Act that for exhibit to succeed, the maker must present them, arguing further that exhibits 4 and 5 were presented by bank officials who were not the maker.
After the break, CCT Chairman ruled that Onnoghen must open his defence on April 1.