Onnoghen Appeals CCT Judgment

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Walter Onnoghen,
Walter Onnoghen

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja to quash the judgment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) that convicted him of charges of false assets declaration.

Onnoghen in his appeal filed Thursday against the judgment of the tribunal is also praying the appellate court to set aside the order of forfeiture of his assets to the federal government made by the CCT.

The CCT on Thursday convicted Justice Walter Onnoghen on all six count charge of false assets declaration preffered against him by the federal government.

The three man panel of the tribunal in a judgment delivered by the chairman, Danladi Umar, held that from the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the statement of Onnoghen admitting that he made a mistake of not declaring his five accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank, the tribunal came to the conclusion that Onnoghen was guilty as charged.

The CCT having convicted Onnoghen of the charges went ahead to remove Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Umar also ordered that in line with the provisions of the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act, Onnoghen was barred from holding any public office for the next ten years.

Umar also held that since Onnoghen could not adduce any evidence as to how he got the money in the undeclared accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank, the money are thereby confiscated, seized and are to be forfeited to the federal government.

Onnoghen however in the appeal filed on his behalf by his lead counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, is challenging the decision of the tribunal on grounds that the tribunal erred in law when it convicted him of all the six count charge.

According to Awomolo, the CCT erred in law when it dismissed Onnoghen’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the matter and thus occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.

Awomolo argued that as at the time the charge was filed against him on January 11, 2019, he was not subject to the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

He further argued that the tribunal erred in law when it assumed jurisdiction having on January 9, 2018 in the case of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta affirmed the position of the Court of Appeal in the case of Ngajiwa and dismissed and acquitted Ngwuta of the charge.

Awomolo said the tribunal erred in law and acted out of jurisdiction when it ordered that the assets of the appellant be confiscated and therefore occasioned grave miscarriage of justice.

Part of the 16 grounds the appeal was predicted upon include the claim that the tribunal erred when it held that Onnoghen confessed to the charge framed by admission and use that as a basis to hold that Onnoghen did not declare his assets from 2005 when he was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court.

He wondered that the evidence of the defence witness did not create any reasonable doubt on the evidence of the prosecution witness that Onnoghen did not make declaration of his assets since 2005.

The appellant further wondered how the tribunal could convict him on charge of false assets declaration when the five accounts in Standard Chartered Bank were declared in 2016.

Part of the reliefs sought in the appeal however include an order setting aside the judgment of the tribunal on grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the charge.

An order holding that the tribunal ought to have recuse itself from the matter based on the allegations of bias.

And an order discharging and acquitting Onnoghen from the charge.