The allegations of financial crimes and non-disclosure of asset against the Chief Justice of the federation Justice Walter Onnoghen has continued to generate diverse reaction across the country. Justice Onnoghen is standing trial on a six count charge bordering on nondisclosure of asset.
The development follows the petition before the Code of Conduct Tribunal against the serving Chief Justice of Nigeria. The petition which was written by a Non-Governmental Organization; Anti-Corruption Research based Data Initiative claims among other things that the Chief Justice “is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself, up to as recently as the 10th August 2016 which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.”
In its reaction, the leading opposition party PDP has described the situation as a “recipe for anarchy and an attempt by the Presidency to annex and destabilize the judiciary before the forthcoming elections, in a bid to install a pliable CJN that will do their bidding on electoral matters”
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar also condemned the development especially considering the timing. According to him, the news is received “with apprehension and suspicion especially as such a move against the head of an arm of our government is coming so close to an election in preparation of which the Buhari administration has shown growing desperation.
He further warned that an accused is innocent until proven guilty by a law court not by the Buhari Administration therefore, “any attempt to force Justice Walter Onnoghen to vacate his office, 4 weeks to an election for which the unpopular Buhari administration has shown every intention to manipulate, is a move pregnant with negative meaning.”
Foremost constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome in his reaction labeled the development as a witch hunt and politically motivated. According to him, “If you ask me, I sense serious political undertones oozing from this so-called imminent arraignment of the noble CJN. Question, when did they discover the alleged offence for which they now want to charge him on Monday?
“Was it just yesterday; was it last week, two weeks or six months ago? The CJN has been in office now for well over one year, how come that this misconduct or whatever offence that he is being alleged, was not seen up to now?
“How come, that it is just less than 40 days to the 2019 Presidential election, when the CJN is going to play the major role in constituting the Presidential election petition tribunal, that he is being moved against?” “Who is afraid of the Judiciary? Who is afraid of Justice Onnoghen and his impartiality and straightforwardness?”
However, the Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against corruption, Prof Itse Sagay SAN has emphasized the fact the petition against the serving Chief Justice of the federation shows that no one is above the law in Nigeria.
According to him, “I do not rejoice, neither am I pleased that such high officials are being probed or investigated; but it shows that in Nigeria, the law is working and that the rule of law operates and that no one is higher that the law”
Meanwhile, the Coalition of United Political Parties CUPP has threatened to commence a One million man march against the prosecution of the CJN. According to a spokesman of the group Mr Imo Ugochinyere stated that “Nigerian opposition will immediately commence mobilization for a one-million-man march to save the Nigerian judiciary from President Buhari’s reign of destruction,” he said.
While describing Onnoghen’s planned arraignment as undemocratic and unconstitutional. He said the plan was the latest in the strategies being deployed by the present administration to rig the forthcoming elections.
Justice Walter Onnoghen is scheduled to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday rity62 \lsdlo