Foremost lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, has reacted to the bench warrant issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
We had reported that the CCT on Wednesday also mandated the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the Director General, Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Magaji to effect his arrest.
This development was sequel to an application by the prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar, praying the tribunal that a bench warrant be issued against Onnoghen whom he said has been consistently absent from court.
Umar, however, argued that his application for a bench warrant was appropriate given that Onnoghen’s none-appearance today was the main reason upon which the last adjournment was approved.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Wednesday and entitled ‘THE CCT’S BENCH WARRANT FOR THE CJN ONNOGHEN’S ARREST: CARRYING THE JOKE TOO FAR ‘, the senior advocate of Nigeria(SAN), condemned the bench warrant, describing it as a trivialization of the judicial process.
The statement read: “It’s quite saddening and abhorrent to hear that the CCT has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of CJN Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.
“For God’s sake, this is bordering on the vendetta, the ridiculous and trivialization of the judicial process. I condemn this unwholesome step which puts the CCT in the public domain as being on a vengeful and extra-legal mission against the CJN.
“It must be pointed out that this latest step by the CCT which has argued it is solely under the president and not under the judiciary, appears to be teleguided by the dictatorial Executive, especially the presidency. These are my reasons for this strong view:
1. The NJC has since taken over the investigation of the CJN as provided for in sections 153,158,291,292(2) and section 21, parts A and B to the 3rd schedule to the Nigerian Constitution.
2. The EFCC has since written a petition against the same NJC, using the same evidence as that before the CCT
3. The CCT has itself adjourned the CJN’s matter for argument on whether it even has jurisdiction at all to hear the case against the CJN
4.There are at least 4 Court orders directing the CCT to halt further proceedings.
5. The CJN has not yet been physically arraigned before the CCT on the charges filed such as to give the CCT and jurisdiction over the CJN.
6. Under the Provisions of the ACJA, a person such as Justice Walter, can even be tried in absentia. He therefore does not therefore have to be humiliated by being bundled to the court for arraignment like a common criminal. So, it is not a question of one being above the law.
7. By virtue of section 8 of the ACJA, every suspect is to be accorded humane treatment, with dignity and no suspect is to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
8. By virtue of section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act, the CJN ought not have been charged at all before the CCT, given his admission of mistaken non full compliance with the declaration of his assets. The section provides that he shall not be charged before the CCT once he admits non compliance. The matter ends there, as he shall be made to comply by being given fresh forms to fill and make full disclosure.
9. The earlier order made by the CCT that the CJN shall step aside has since been appealed against to the Court of Appeal and the appeal ought to be allowed to run its full course.
It is very clear to me that the CJN is being mob-lynched by the government and a section of the compromised or uninformed members of the public; is being harassed, intimidated and deliberately, painted with the paintbrush of shame, all with a view to present a fait accompli as to why.
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