Buhari gets NJC’s reports on Onnoghen
The National Judicial Council (NJC) said it has sent its report on the petitions brought against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and that of the Acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other groups to President Muhammadu Buhari for consideration.
The Council, however, said it was not appropriate to release the report of its investigations to the public before conveying it to the president. Besides, the Council has also refrained from taking a decision on the allegations of non assets declaration against Justice Onnoghen, which is currently a subject of litigation before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The decisions were reached after an emergency meeting of the NJC which reconvened, yesterday, to decides on the report of the five-man committee set up to investigate petitions against Justice Onnoghen and the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
A statement by the NJC Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye read: “Council decided that the allegations relating to assets declaration that were levelled against Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON, were subjudice and therefore abstained from considering them. “Council reached a decision on the petitions written by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others and conveyed its decision to President Muhammadu Buhari. “Council also resolved that, by the nature of the decision reached, it would be inappropriate to publicise it before conveying it to Mr. President.”
Onnoghen was suspended on January 25, 11 days after his trial on alleged false asset charge began at the CCT on January 14. President Muhammadu Buhari said he decided to suspend Onnoghen from office after he was served an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal pending the final determination of his false assets declaration case before the tribunal.
According to Buhari: “The nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a Civil Society Organization first became public about a fortnight ago. “Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law. “Perhaps, more worrisome is the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing ’’mistake’’ and “forgetfulness’’ which are totally unknown to our laws as defences in the circumstances of his case. “One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.”
Following the outrage that greeted his travail, the Federal Government had argued that Onnoghen was not removed from office but only suspended.