Human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has listed nine reasons the bench warrant issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), against Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), cannot stand.
Naija News recalls that the CCT had mandated the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the Director General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji on Wednesday to effect Onnoghen’s arrest.
This online news platform understands that the development was a sequel to an application by Aliyu Umar, the prosecuting counsel, praying the tribunal that a bench warrant should be issued against the suspended CJN whom he said has been consistently absent from court.
Giving a reason for his application, Umar had argued that his application for a bench warrant was appropriate given that Onnoghen’s none-appearance today was the main reason upon which the last adjournment was approved.
Reacting to the application in a statement on Wednesday, Ozekhome said the bench warrant issued against the suspended CJN by the CCT is a ‘Trivialization of the judicial process.’
In the statement entitled “THE CCT’S BENCH WARRANT FOR THE CJN ONNOGHEN’S ARREST: CARRYING THE JOKE TOO FAR” and obtained by Naija News, the constitutional lawyer condemned the bench warrant.
The statement reads: “It’s quite saddening and abhorrent to hear that the CCT has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of CJN Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.
“For God’s sake, this is bordering on the vendetta, the ridiculous and trivialization of the judicial process. I condemn this unwholesome step which puts the CCT in the public domain as being on a vengeful and extra-legal mission against the CJN.
“It must be pointed out that this latest step by the CCT which has argued it is solely under the president and not under the judiciary appears to be teleguided by the dictatorial Executive, especially the presidency. These are my reasons for this strong view:
1. The NJC has since taken over the investigation of the CJN as provided for in sections 153,158,291,292(2) and section 21, parts A and B to the 3rd schedule to the Nigerian Constitution.
2. The EFCC has since written a petition against the same NJC, using the same evidence as that before the CCT
3. The CCT has itself adjourned the CJN’s matter for argument on whether it even has jurisdiction at all to hear the case against the CJN
4. There are at least 4 Court orders directing the CCT to halt further proceedings.
5. The CJN has not yet been physically arraigned before the CCT on the charges filed such as to give the CCT and jurisdiction over the CJN.
6. Under the Provisions of the ACJA, a person such as Justice Walter can even be tried in absentia. He, therefore, does not, therefore, have to be humiliated by being bundled to the court for arraignment like a common criminal. So, it is not a question of one being above the law.
7. By virtue of section 8 of the ACJA, every suspect is to be accorded humane treatment, with dignity and no suspect is to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
8. By virtue of section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act, the CJN ought not have been charged at all before the CCT, given his admission of mistaken non-full compliance with the declaration of his assets. The section provides that he shall not be charged before the CCT once he admits non-compliance. The matter ends there, as he shall be made to comply by being given fresh forms to fill and make full disclosure.
9. The earlier order made by the CCT that the CJN shall step aside has since been appealed against to the Court of Appeal and the appeal ought to be allowed to run its full course.
“It is very clear to me that the CJN is being mob-lynched by the government and a section of the compromised or uninformed members of the public; is being harassed, intimidated and deliberately, painted with the paintbrush of shame, all with a view to present a fait accompli as to why,” the statement added.