Justice Walter Onnoghen
The Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, has at last succeeded in serving the criminal charges on false asset declaration on the person of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen preparatory for 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 National Industrial Court both in Abuja which restrained it from proceeding with the arraignment of CJN pending the determination of two different suits before them.
However, a highly dependable source told the PRNigeria that the order of the two courts may not be binding on the tribunal because they are courts of coordinate jurisdiction which by law have equal powers.
The charges were served personally on the CJN on Monday 14, January 2018 by 3.30pm in his office at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja.
The sourced confirmed to the PRNigeria that Justice Onnogen personally received the charges and signed for it, a condition required before he could be properly arraigned at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
With the endorsement of the service of the charge sighted by PRNigeria, the coast is clear for the Federal Government to formally arraign Justice Onnoghen on January 22, 2019 before Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar led-tribunal.
Recall that the CJN was billed to be arraigned on Monday, January 14, but he was, however, 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, Mr Olanipekun also told the three-man tribunal that the CJN is challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to try his client and that the 6 count-charge was not competent in law.
The ground of objection by the CJN is that as a serving judicial officer he can only be punished for any offence committed by the National Judicial Council, a body empowered by the 1999 Constitution to deal erring judicial officers without any recourse to any law court.
Although the Federal Government lawyer, Aliyu Umar, SAN, had sought to know why the CJN was absent in court, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Umar directed the prosecution to do the needful by serving the charge on the person of Justice Onnoghen directly as required by law.
The Tribunal Chairman said that although the charge was said to have been served on a personal assistant to the defendant, there are no established facts, that the charge was conveyed to the CJN by his aide.
However, with the charge, now effectively served on the defendant, his arraignment may be effected on January 22, 2019, being the adjourned date on the order of the tribunal.
The Federal Government had filed criminal charges against Justice Onnoghen on the ground of his alleged failure to declare his asset as a substantive CJN as required by law.