Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), lead counsel to the suspended Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, Monday, lamented the lack of independence of the judiciary.
Awomolo in a statement made available to journalists shortly after Monday’s proceedings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal ( CCT), where Onnoghen is standing trial on six-count charge over alleged false assets declaration, said that the “Nigerian judiciary is very weak, vulnerable and not independent”.
He said it is unthinkable that the head of the judiciary will be treated the way Onnoghen was being pushed around.
He wondered why the body of men and women of highest distinction in the legal profession will look on as nothing is amiss.
Awomolo also regretted that, “Whereas political matters and election matters were treated with dispatch, and judgment delivered within hours, the appeal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, six weeks after argument was made, judgment has been kept away in the file.
“There is no association of Nigerian Judges to speak a word. Let no public officer or judicial officer at any level, throw stone because if not all, most are guilty as Onnoghen. Nobody knows who is next, a precedent has been laid, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation seems pleased,” he said.
He consequently called for amendment of the Constitution to place the Code of Conduct Tribunal under the judiciary to give it its much needed independence, impartiality and to avoid interference from outside the court.
He argued that corruption cannot be fought successful with corrupt institutions, adding, “It is injustice to inflict corrupt procedure on innocent public officers. God will not allow corruption to consume our nation. The end should not justify the means the means should justify the end.
“The practice of propaganda lies and media trial will encourage injustice. Truth will exhalt our nation, but propaganda and lies will enthrone injustice. Lies and injustice is a reproach. Let justice be done even if heaven will fall and let the rule of law be the only means to justify the end”, he said.
Meanwhile, Onnoghen on Monday opened his defence as he called his first witness, Lawal Busari, who tendered receipt of Onnoghen’s 2010 Asset Declaration Form.
However, before the witness was called into the witness box, Awomolo informed the tribunal of an application seeking for the tribunal’s order to compel one Mrs Theresa Nwafor, a staff of the CCB who is said to be based in Benin, Edo State, to come and testify for Onnoghen.
Counsel to the prosecution, Aliyu Umar (SAN), however, did not object to the application to issue the subpoena compelling Mrs Nwafor to appear at the tribunal for the purpose of giving evidence in the trial.
Consequently, the three member tribunal led by Danladi Umar granted the application and ordered that Mrs Nwafor appear before the tribunal on Wednesday April 3, 2019 by 10am to testify.
The witness, Lawal Olarewaju Busari, the Chief Driver/ Mechanic, been led in evidence by Awomolo, gave a detail information on how he and Onnoghen went to Asokoro in Abuja, sometimes in 2010 to obtain his assets declaration form.
He recalled that onnoghen had on that occasion asked him if he had obtained his own asset declaration form and encouraged him to do, adding that onnoghen later gave him N200 to pay for both forms and receipts issued to them as evidence of payment for the forms.
When Awomolo sought to tender the receipt as evidence, prosecution counsel, objected on grounds that he was not the maker. However, following argument that the document was relevant and it is original, the tribunal accordingly admitted the document as exhibit.
The witness further confirmed that both Onnoghen and himself filled their respective forms and returned to the CCB, while he went at a later date to get the acknowledgement receipts for the forms.