Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has refuted reports that his Abuja official residence has been raided by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Onnoghen, who denied the report through his Senior Special Adviser on media, Mr Awassam Bassey, described it as “false news”.
“I really don’t know where they got the information from. So many media men were here earlier with cameras over the same report. But what I can tell you for now is that there was no such thing. It is false news”, Bassey told Daily Sun.
The story on the alleged invasion on the residence of the CJN as reported on social media was attributed to a post that originated from former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode had in the said post asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call off EFCC from Onnoghen’s residence.
He wrote: “Why have the EFCC surrounded the home of CJN Onnoghen and why are they seeking to arrest him? “These people want Nigeria to burn! Buhari call off your dogs before it is too late!
“This is a democracy and not a gestapo state! In the name of God let this madness stop.”
The CJN is currently facing a six count criminal charge that was filef against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
In addition, Justice Onnoghen was accused of operating foreign back accounts.
Specifically, the Code of Conduct Bureau alleged that contrary to relevant laws regulating conduct of public office holders, the CJN maintained a domiciliary foreign currencies account that comprised of Dollars Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account.
The federal government’s plan to arraign him on the said charges was stalled Monday following refusal of the CJN to appear before the Justice Danladi Umar’s led three-man panel tribunal to take his plea.
He is contending that federal government failed to abide by existing judicial precedent as encapsulated in a recent Appeal Court decision in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), to the effect that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer, must first be reported to and handled by the NJC, pursuant to the provisions of the laws.
He argued that only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer could prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed to initiate a criminal proceeding. Consequently, placing reliance on a recent decision of the CCT on a similar charge FG lodged against another Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, the CJN’s legal team, maintained that FG’s decision to sideline the NJC, stripped the tribunal off its jurisdiction to entertain the instant case. Shortly after the CCT panel fixed January 22 to hear the CJN’s objection to his trial, the Abuja Division of Federal High Court, in a counter move, issued an interim injunction that forbade the tribunal from taking further steps in the matter, stressing that all the parties should maintain their status quo.
The court, in the ruling that was delivered by Justice Evelyn Maha, further slated Thursday to hear two separate suits that two groups lodged to challenge the CJN’s trial. Whereas the first suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was filed by incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, the second case marked FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was lodged before the court by the Incorporated Trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management. Cited as Defendants in the suits were the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, the National Judicial Council, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.