JUSTICE Walter Onnoghen has filed an appeal against his conviction for false asset declaration after the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) found him guilty earlier this week and banned him from holding public office for 10 years.
In January this year, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the embattled Justice Onnoghen and replaced him with Justice Tanko Mohammed, who was sworn-in as the acting CJN. Over recent months, Justice Onnoghen has been involved in intense political jockeying with the government that involved him being charged before the CCT with false asset declaration.
Yesterday, a three-man panel of CCT judges, headed by its chairman Danladi Umar, found Justice Onnoghen guilty of the false declaration of assets in breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau for public officials. It subsequently removed him from the office as chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Nigerian Judicial Council chairman, while also banning him from holding office for 10 years.
However, in a swift response Okon Efut, Justice Onnoghen’s lead consul described the judgment as unconstitutional, adding that it was in breach of the ex-CJN’s right to fair hearing. He has already filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal, hoping to get the decision overturned.
Mr Efut said: “We know that all is not over in this matter as the wheel of justice grinds slowly. It grinds slowly but surely and this is not a matter that will end here.
“We shall avail ourselves of all the processes and the hierarchy of the judiciary. The judgment was premeditated as it had been passed as far back as January 23 when the tribunal ordered Walter Onnoghen’s suspension without hearing him.
“Before this day, on January 23, 2019, the same judgment had been passed, removing the chief justice of Nigeria without fair hearing. So, it was fait accompli, it was premeditated as judgment has been passed before today. Today’s judgment is just a formality.”
Also, the tribunal banned Justice Onnoghen from holding public office for 10 years and also said he is to forfeit the money in his five bank accounts that were not declared to the Nigerian government because they were acquired illegally. According to the tribunal, it was crystal clear that the money was acquired illegally since Justice Onnoghen has failed to prove how he got it.
Mr Efut added: “We hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the constitution of Nigeria, it has breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience. It has not only been able to pass judgment, it has convicted on an offence that was never charged.
“This is an erosion of the fundamental principles of our constitution until some questions are answered. For instance, why is it that the due course of justice was not allowed to flow?”