Godwin Tsa, Abuja
THE Code of Conduct Tribunal has ordered the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, to enter his defence in the six counts charge of non- declaration of assets, after dismissing his no case submission.
The tribunal in its ruling held that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against Onnoghen to enable him enter his defence. Chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar who read the ruling said the confessional statement of Onnoghen which was not made under duress is enough to call him to enter his defence. The tribunal noted that it will not be bound by technicalities but will do substantial justice in the case. The Standard Operation Procedure department of the Code of Conduct Bureau has been suspended under the present chairman because it was abused by the previous administration.
“They took over the power of the Committee and gave them to the Board as operational staff. It was for this reason that there is a showdown between the staff of the Bureau and the management. The tribunal derived its powers from Chapter 15 to the third schedule to the constitution. The constitutional provisions are superior to all other laws including the Standard Operation Procedure. The tribunal is not bound by technicalities but by substantial justice. The defendant himself made a confessional statement which was voluntary and not under duress. This confessional is more enough for him to enter his defence if he has any. The tribunal will not be.
“All of us are equal as we are all created from same source, from the President to the shoe shiner “, Umar said. But in a swift reaction, Justice Onnoghen filed a notice of appeal challenging the ruling of the tribunal. In his six grounds of appeal, Onnoghen said the Chairman and members of the tribunal erred in law when they dismissed his no- case submission “by reason of their failure to appreciate his submission that the Code of Conduct Bureau, is bound by the provisions of the 1999 constitution, the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act and the Code of Con- duct Bureau Standard Operation Procedure and that the processes that led to the institution of the criminal proceeding against him, violated, disregarded and by-passed the statutes and such corrupt proceeding cannot be the basis for a prima facie case to warrant calling him to defend himself.”
He said the Chairman and members of the tribunal erred in law when they overruled the nocase submission of the appellant when there is uncontroverted evidence before the tribunal that there was no valid and lawful investigation of the allegations against the appellant and thereby occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
Earlier in his submission, Onnoghen who has urged the tribunal to dis- charge and acquit him of the charges against him, accused the Tribunal of not following its set Standard Operation Procedures in instituting the case against him.
Onnoghen who was temporarily removed from office by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25 owing to allegations against him, said he deserved an apology since FG failed to tender any credible evidence before the tribunal to establish that he committed any offence known to the law.
He described the totality of exhibits FG adduced to support the six-count charge it preferred against him at the CCT as “hear- say, irrelevant and useless evidence”. According to him, “there is nothing proved”.
He urged the Mr. Danladi Umar led three-member tribunal to discharge and acquit him of all the allegations that were levelled against him in the charge, insisting that he has no case to answer.