Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has faulted those arguing that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr. Walter Onnoghen ought to have been brought before National Judicial Commission , NJC, before his arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over non declaration of some assets traced to him.
CACOL faulted the argument based on the fact that Justice Walter Onnoghen, has never denied his refusal or inability to declare his assets as required for all public officers by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and other relevant rules governing Public Officers’ operations.
“It should, however, be stated that what most of those chastising the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for arraigning the CJN on refusal or failure to declare his assets before assuming the position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, was the provisions of Paragraph 21 (b) of the Third Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) as applicable to the probable arraignment and trial of serving judges which this provision insists must first be reported at the NJC (Nigerian Judicial Council) for investigation and issue a declaration of a ‘case to answer’ or not on the judicial officer before he/she could then be suspended or made to recuse himself/herself and be made available for necessary arraignment and trial. This, no doubt, is to preserve and guarantee the independence of the Judiciary against probable interference or manipulations of any other arm of government.”
In a Press Release issued by CACOL’s Coordinator, Media and Publications, Adegboyega Otunuga on behalf of the anti-graft organization’s Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he noted, “Against the backdrop of opposition and condemnation by a cross section of Nigerians, especially legal practitioners, it is incumbent to note that where the issue involves offences committed before the assumption of office by the judicial officer or it concerns certain criminal offences, like murder, manslaughter, refusal to declare his/her assets or false declaration of such assets, etc., such a judicial officer, including the CJN, could be directly arraigned and made to face prosecution without any recourse to the NJC (Nigerian Judicial Council). “It must be expressly stated that if a judicial officer commits theft, fraud, murder or manslaughter, arson and the likes, which are crimes committed outside the scope of the performance of his official functions, he may be arrested, interrogated and prosecuted accordingly by the State DIRECTLY without recourse to the NJC.” – Appeal Court ruling in Nganjiwa v FRN and even a Supreme Court ruling in Kwara State Pilgrims Welfare Board V Baba affirms same position.”
“The CJN was alleged to have made five (5) different cash deposits of USD10, 000 (Ten thousand Dollars) each on March 8, 2011, into Standard Bank Account 1062650, on June 7, 2011, he made two (20 separate cash deposits of USD5, 000 (Five Thousand Dollars) each, which was followed by another four cash deposits of USD10, 000 (Ten Thousand Dollars) each, on June 27, 2011, made another set of five separate cash deposits of USD10, 000 (Ten Thousand Dollars) each and made four other cash deposits of USD10, 000 (Ten Thousand Dollars) on June 28, 2011. All these were ethical crimes committed, not in the course of performing his duties, but as a Public officer that ought to declare such available funds/deposits.”
The CACOL Boss added, “The truth is that the NJC has neither the technical ability nor the constitutional power to investigate assets declaration matters.
“It is only the CCB that was constitutionally vested with such powers and technically equipped for same purpose.
“Aside this, Justice Onnoghen is not being arraigned as a judicial officer but as a public officer and he enjoys no immunity not to be so arraigned.
“On the timing of the arraignment which some are insisting makes it smell of political undertone, we hasten to add that though this issue first cropped up almost two (2) years ago, there is no such time limit for a criminal offence and only the prosecution could determine when enough proofs and investigation have been gathered to try such cases.
“We could only plead that as Nigerians who have been adversely affected by the ravaging effects of corruption by those at the various levels of government, enough discretion should apply in responding to such issues, irrespective of whose ox is gored.” The statement said.