The Code of Conduct Tribunal handling the trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, has been ordered his defence counsel to bring the troubled most senior judge t court to answer questions of allegations levelled against him over his failure to totally declare his asset.
After a confrontation ensued between the suspended CJN’s lawyers and the head of CCT, the Danladi Umar-led tribunal ordered Onnoghen to appear in court in person.
Onnoghen was controversially suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari after it was discovered that the judge was operating foreign currency accounts with millions of dollars in them and failed to declare them when he assumed office as Nigeria’s no.1 judge in the country.
He has sent a team of lawyers to represent him at previous hearings.
But on Monday, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, said: “The presence of the defendant is needed at the tribunal.
“(A) plea must be taken before the defendant can raise any objection as to the competence of the charges or the jurisdiction of the court,” he added.
The case was adjourned until February 13 “so that all issues will be resolved while he (Onnoghen) is present”, Umar told the court.
Onnoghen was charged on January 12 then suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25 — a move that triggered condemnation over the power of the executive to suspend the CJN.
The case is politically charged as Onnoghen heads the Supreme Court, which would give a final ruling on any disputes arising from general elections due on February 16, AFP reported.
The suspension has been widely criticised by the opposition, lawyers and international community, including the European Union, the United States and Britain on the grounds of its timing.
The government has said the suspension is not linked to the election.
Buhari came to power in 2015 on a mandate to tackle corruption but has been accused of only targeting political opponents.
There have been moves by his team of lawyers to lobby the President to drop the case against the suspended CJN, but seems the coffin of Onnoghen has been nailed.