NJC Re-nominates Onnoghen Acting CJN, Pending Senate Confirmation

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 • Presidency confirms THISDAY’s exclusive report on his nomination
• Justices Ngwuta, Ademola dragged before Code of Conduct Tribunal
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has written to acting President Yemi Osinbajo asking him to re-appoint the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen in an acting capacity, pending his screening and confirmation by the Senate as the substantive CJN.

The decision to resend Justice Onnoghen’s name confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report yesterday that the NJC would at its emergency meeting recommend his re-appointment in an acting capacity, pending his confirmation by the Senate.

THISDAY had also exclusively reported that Osinbajo on Tuesday transmitted Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.

The need for the council’s emergency meeting yesterday in Abuja at which Justice Onnoghen, who chairs the NJC presided, had arisen due to the lack of sufficient time for the Senate to screen and confirm him before his tenure as the acting CJN elapses on Friday.

An NJC source explained that the recommendation by the council for his reappointment as acting CJN was done to prevent a situation where Onnoghen would have to step down by Friday and create a vacuum.

Onnoghen took over as the acting CJN on November 10, 2016. His tenure in an acting capacity will elapse on Friday.

Also, the presidency yesterday confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report that the acting president had forwarded Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.

The presidency made this known via its Twitter handle @NGRPresident.
His nomination has now put to rest all controversies surrounding his elevation to the post.
Should the Senate confirm him, Justice Onnoghen, from Cross River State, will become the first person from the southern section of the country to hold the post in 30 years.

Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday filed two separate charges against Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta of the Supreme Court and a judge of the Federal High Court Justice Adeniyi Ademola at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for contravening the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act.

This was contained in a statement issued by the spokesman of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Salihu Isah.

He said the AGF has filed an application at the CCT requesting it to commence the trial of the two judges.
Isah disclosed that the Principal State Counsel at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Hajara Yusuf filed the charges on behalf of the AGF, pursuant to Section 24 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

The government is alleging that Justice Ngwuta engaged in private business as a public officer, contrary to Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

He was also alleged to have refused to declare his assets as a public officer, contrary to Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act.
Justice Ngwuta is expected to face a ten-count charge.

Part of the charges against him state that “between 2nd June 2011 and 19th July 2016, while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Tribunal, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta did make a false declaration of assets to the CCB when he failed to declare three duplexes at Chinedu Ogah Avenue, Ntezi, Aba in Abakaliki, while being a Justice of the Supreme Court”.

He was also alleged, in the second count, to have between the 2nd June 2011 and 19th July 2016, while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria made a false declaration to the CCB when he failed to declare twenty-two plots of land at Chief Igwe Uga Avenue, Abakaliki, while the third count states that he failed to declare six plots of land at Frank Okoroafor Avenue, Abakaliki.

Count nine reads that between the 1st of August 2014 and the 16th of July 2015, he corruptly received from Mr. Ogudu Nwadire, through his personal bank account numbered 0018113021 domiciled at Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, the sum of NGN36,310,00 in the discharge of his official duties as a judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The final count said: “Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta between the 2nd June 2011 and 19th July 2016 in Abuja, while serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and within the Jurisdiction of this tribunal did engage in the purchase and sale of rice, palm oil and other related products, while being a Justice of the Supreme Court and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 6 of the Code Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act.”

Justice Ademola is charged with two counts.
Count one states that he failed to declare his assets to the CCB and thereby breached Section 15 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 and punishable under Section 23(2) of the same Act, while the second count was that he engaged and participated in private business, contrary to Section 6 of the CCB and Tribunal Act and punishable under Section 23(2) of same Act.

He was also accused of engaging in the purchase and sale of foreign exchange currencies, while being a Judge of the Federal High Court and thereby committing an offence contrary to section 6 of the CCB and Tribunal Act.

Justices Ngwuta and Ademola are two of seven judges whose residences were raided by the Department of State Security (DSS) last October for alleged corruption.

They were forced to step aside as judges and have since been charged to court by the federal government on the corruption allegations.