The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has served the criminal charges of false asset declaration on the person of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, preparatory to his arraignment on January 22, 2019, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
However, the tribunal will have to contend with orders of a Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court, both in Abuja, which restrained it from proceeding with the arraignment of the CJN, pending the determination of two different suits before them.
However, a dependable source disclosed that the orders might not be deemed binding on the tribunal because they are courts of coordinate jurisdiction that by law have equal powers.
The charges were served personally on the CJN on Monday, January 14, 2018, by 3.30pm in his office at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja. It was reported that Onnoghen personally received the charges and signed for it, a condition required before he could be properly arraigned at the CCT.
With the endorsement of the service of the charge by the CJN, the coast is clear for the Federal Government to formally arraign Onnoghen on January 22, 2019, before the Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar led-tribunal.
The CJN was billed to be arraigned on Monday, January 14, but he was absent on the ground that the condition precedent for his appearance had not been lawfully met by the prosecution.
Legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who led a retinue of senior lawyers to defend the CJN, had last Monday informed the tribunal that his client was not at the tribunal to take his plea because he had not been served with the charges against him as required by law.
Besides, Olanipekun also told the three-man tribunal that the CJN was challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try the case and that the six count-charge was not competent in law.
The Federal Government had filed criminal charges against Onnoghen on the ground of his alleged failure to declare his assets as a substantive CJN, as required by law.