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CCT Chair Insists on Onnoghen’s Appearance

The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal ( CCT ), Danladi Umar has insisted that the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen must appear before the tribunal in person before any further businesses could be conducted in the case pending against him (Onnoghen).

Umar gave the directive at the resumption of proceedings in the case on Monday, shortly before agreeing to the request by parties for adjournment to February 13.

He said: “Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), a defendant, who is served with a charge and represented by lawyers, must take his plea before raising any objection.

“The defendant has continued to stay away from this tribunal. I am going to grant this adjournment at the instance of the prosecution and defence, but must state that the defendant must attend court at the next adjourned date so that all the issues would be resolved in his presence.”

The suspended CJN is accused of violating code of conduct for public officers by allegedly failing to declare some of his assets.

At the commencement of proceedings on Monday, an official of the tribunal noted that the defendant was absent.

Lead prosecuting lawyer, Aliyu Umar (SAN) said the case was adjourned to February 4 for the arraignment of the defendant and the hearing of pending applications.

Lead defence lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said he had a discussion with the prosecutor to allow his application for adjournment in view of some recent developments in the case.

Awomolo said: “We filed a process this morning, indicating that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) forwarded a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC). It is the same petition that was forwarded to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) that founded the complaint before this tribunal.”

He added that the NJC has, in the exercise of its powers, forwarded the petition to the suspended CJN for his comment within seven days. He noted that the seven days, given Justice Onnoghen to respond to the petition, will lapse on this Wednesday.

Awomolo expressed optimism that the NJC will meet shortly after receiving Justice Onnoghen’s and take a position on the issue.

He added: “Our application is that the proceedings be further adjourned to prevent the defendant from suffering double jeopardy. Parties are ready to argue the pending applications, but in the interest of justice and due process, we seek an adjournment to enable the NJC take a decision.

“No harm will be done to the rest. The integrity of this tribunal will be enhanced if this application is granted and the NJC will be afforded time to take a decision in this matter,” the defence lawyer said.

Awomolo said an adjournment will prevent a situation where the defendant is made to suffer double jeopardy.

Responding, Umar admitted engaging in discussion with Awomolo before the tribunal commenced its sitting.
Umar said he was not opposing an application for adjournment, but that his decision to agree to the defence’s request for adjournment was not because the AGF has forwarded the same petition to the NJC.

The prosecution lawyer hinted about the possibility of the charge being withdrawn by the AGF, in the exercise of his power. He said it was within the discretion and power of the AGF to discontinue the proceedings.

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