Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The trial of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen resumes today at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) where his legal team and the prosecution counsel will adopt their final address on the charges against him.
While the Federal Government called three witnesses to maintain that it has established a prima facie case against Justice Onnoghen to warrant his conviction, Onnoghen on his own part closed his case after calling his driver, 60-year-old Lawal Busari who told the tribunal that his boss had declared his assets.
Besides, Onnoghen in his final address said the six count charge preferred against him by the Federal Government only amount to gambling.
Although Onnoghen had tendered his resignation letter in the aftermath of the recommendations by the National Judicial Council (NJC), for his compulsory retirement, the charge against him has not been withdrawn.
Both his letter of resignation and the report of the NJC on the petitions against him are still pending before President Muhammadu Buhari.
The prosecution is pressing for a jail sentence for Onnoghen in his ongoing trial at the ( CCT).
But Onnoghen in his final address said the charges were “inherently defective” and unconstitutional.
The trial resumes today with lawyers to both parties to adopt and defend their final addresses.
The prosecution team, led by Aliyu Umar (SAN) in a final written address of April 11, 2019, asked the tribunal to convict Onnoghen. The prosecution said: “We humbly submit to your noble lords that the essential ingredients of the offence are: The Defendant is a public officer as stipulated in paragraph 5 of Part 2 of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).
“That the Defendant in such capacity failed to declare his assets immediately after taking office for Count One of the charge against the Defendant the above the only ingredients of the offence under Section 15 and 23(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap 15 LFN 2004.
“We humbly submit that the Evidence of PW.1 and PW.2 and also exhibits 2, 3, 5 and 6 conclusively proved that Defendant took oath of office as Justice of the Supreme Court in the year 2005 and as such was under an obligation to declare his assets as provided by the Constitution and Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
“It is our further submission that by exhibit 2, the Defendant declared his asset for the position of Justice of the Supreme Court on 14th December, 2016. The Defendant took oath of office as a justice of the Supreme Court on 8th day of June, 2005. This is also borne out from the testimony of PW.1, PW.2, Exhibit 2 and 6.
“We submit from the above that the Prosecution counsel have proved the essential elements of Count 1 of the Charge being:
“That the Defendant is a Justice of the Supreme Court bound by virtue of that appointment to abide by the provisions of section 15 of the Code of Conduct Act to declare his assets at least three months after his appointment to that office as stipulated in paragraph 5 of Part 2 of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).
“That the Defendant was sworn in as the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 8th day of June 2005: That the Defendant did not declare his appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court at the time until when he submitted Exhibit 2 of 14th December, 2016.
That the Defendant did not declare his assets as a Justice of the Supreme Court at the time unlit when he submitted Exhibit 2 on 14th December, 2016. The failure to submit Assets Declaration months after the appointment of the Defendant to the Supreme Court is a contravention of Section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Act Cap C15 LFN 2004.
A contravention of the provisions of Section 15(1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act Cap C15 LFN 2004 is punishable under Section 23 (2) a, b, and c of the same Act.
“We therefore submit that the Prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt in the circumstance of this case in respect of Count One.”
“We humbly urge your Lordship to hold that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and proceed to convict the defendant.”