Buhari won’t accept Onnoghen’s resignation –Presidency
By Anule Emmanuel and Tunde Oyesina
The Presidency has confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari will not accept the voluntary resignation request from the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen. President Buhari had, on January 25, 2019, suspended the CJN on the orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) given on January 23. The CCT, last Thursday, convicted the suspended CJN and ordered for his removal from office, having breached the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act. The decision of the CCT came despite an earlier recommendation by the National Judicial Commission (CJN) to President Buhari, for his compulsory retirement from service.
Onnoghen had also reportedly sent his resignation letter to President Buhari barely 24 hours after the NJC concluded investigating him for various allegations of misconduct. A senior aide to the President, who prefers not to be mentioned in print, yesterday, told New Telegraph in an interview that the case of the suspended CJN was a closed matter. He said there is no way Onnoghen would have expected President Buhari to accept his resignation when the issues surrounding his case were already in court. The presidential aide also explained that the NJC, in its recommendation letter to President Buhari for compulsory retirement of the suspended CJN, failed to cite the issue of alleged gross misconduct. He said the NJC’s recommendation was not appropriate with regards to the matter as it affected the suspended CJN. “There is no way the President would have acted on the letter of the NJC which recommended for compulsory retirement of the suspended CJN. They were silent on the issue of gross misconduct.
“But the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is clear on the basis upon which the President can sack a CJN. They were silent on this. If the President acted on it, someone would have said that he acted against the Constitution. Some people would even say that he is looking for a short cut on the matter. “Now, he has been convicted by the CCT. The President will allow the court process to go on since Onnoghen himself has also filed an appeal at the Appeal Court,” the president’s aide noted.
The Federal Government had, in January, on the strength of a petition filed a six-count criminal charge bothering on nondeclaration of five accounts domiciled with Standard Chartered Bank on Onnoghen. About four months later, the Danladi Umar-led threeman panel of tribunal, last Thursday, convicted Onnoghen of the six-count criminal charge and consequently removed him as the CJN. The tribunal equally barred him from holding public office for 10 years for contravening the CCB laws on asset declaration for public officers. In addition, the tribunal also ordered the forfeiture of various sums of monies in naira, euros, pounds and dollars denominations found in his five bank accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank which he was said to have failed to declare.
The forfeited sums are N26.8 million, $137,700 and £13,730. However, not satisfied with the judgement, Onnoghen, who described his conviction as unconstitutional and premeditated, had approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to challenge same. In his 16 grounds of appeal filed through his counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), Onnoghen prayed the court for an order that the lower tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain the case in the first place. He also prayed the court to make an order that the lower tribunal ought to have recused itself from the proceedings before it.
Onnoghen equally prayed the court for an order that the charge has become an academic exercise and should set aside the conviction of the appellant. He also wants the court to set aside the order of forfeiture of assets made by the tribunal. He equally prayed the appellate court to discharge and acquit him. There are about five different appeals filed by Onnoghen pending before the Appeal Court at the moment. Earlier, before the final judgement, the tribunal had refused Onnoghen’s no case submission, application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the matter and another application praying the chairman of the tribunal to recuse himself of the matter on the allegation of bias.
Credit: New Telegraph