Assets Declaration Charges: Shun CCT, S’South Govs Tell CJN Onnoghen …FG’s Move, Denigration Of Judiciary, Constitution …Saraki, Dogara, NBA, Ohanaeze Kick …If Buhari Wants Crisis, We Are Ready -Secondus

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike (2nd right), with Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (right), Bayelsa State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson (2nd left) and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja, yesterday.

Governors of the South-South geo-political zone have described moves to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, today by the Federal Government as a demonstration of lack of respect for the people of the Niger Delta region, the nation’s judiciary and democracy by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governors stated this yesterday at the end of an emergency meeting held at the Bayelsa State Governor’s lodge, Maitama, Abuja.
In a communique read by Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, the forum condemned what it termed the flagrant disobedience of court orders by President Buhari-led administration, adding that the moves to arraign the CJN with barely a month to the 2019 polls is capable of heating the polity. The communique read in part:
“We note that the unfortunate action against the CJN further reinforces the perception that the Buhari administration has no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, in particular the people of Niger Delta, and the rule of law “It is a fact that this administration has a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders.
“We expect President Buhari to know that democracy cannot survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution. “We note that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council, NJC, has ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of Judicial officers.
“Specifically, the NJC has the powers and clear procedures for investigating allegations, and recommending appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures against judicial officials as a matter of first instance before any further steps.
“The judicial pronouncements in the cases of FGN Vs Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court (January 9, 2018) and Justice Ngajinwa Vs FGN 2017 at the CCT have given validation to the express provisions of the constitution on this issue.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the judiciary “We believe that the President, Muhammadu Buhari has a constitutional responsibility and huge moral obligation to defend our democracy.
“we consider this step, which is directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region, as totally unacceptable as it is reflective of the South South story of endless marginalization and intimidation.
“The unceremonious removal of former Acting Director General of the Department of State Service, Mathew Seiyefa and his replacement is still very fresh.
“We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
Legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has described the proposed trial today of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged failure to fully declare his assets as “denigration of the country’s Judiciary and Constitution.”
He also noted the constitutional provision which stipulates that any infraction by judges must first be investigated and then resolved by the National Judicial Council, “to the exclusion of any other body or authority.”
Babalola, in a statement yesterday entitled, Proposed arraignment of the Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen: Again, I say two wrongs do not make a right, said the law had made clear the processes for the trial of judicial officers and as well their removal, hence the need to desist from “contempt and denigration of the judiciary.”
Continuing, he argued, “Again, the point must be made clear that the Constitution clearly provides for the procedure with which the CJN can be removed from office.
“Section 292 (1)(a)(i) and 292 (1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) addressed it.”
For the President General of Umbrella organisation of Ndigbo, the Ohananeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo yesterday warned the federal Government that they are heating up the polity by the needless action it’s taking against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
The President General said that legal opinion did not support the action and therefore should not have been contemplated at all.
In a statement he signed, Nwodo said Ohaneze has received, with shock and disappointment, the decision of the Federal government of Nigeria, acting through the Code of Conduct Bureau, to prosecute the Chief Justice Of Nigeria.
The President General noted that Legal opinion abound that the action is premature and ill conceived following an extant Court Of Appeal decision which interprets the procedure for prosecuting judicial officers.
He said: “This procedure has not been followed. The fact that the National Judicial Council has been ignored is not just illegal but suggests deliberate court shopping and a predetermined objective.
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association has reacted to the charges filed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The Federal Government will today, January 14, 2019, arraign the CJN before the Justice Danladi Yakubu-led Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on charges of failures to declare his assets as required by law and for operating Bank Domiciliary Foreign Currency Accounts.
The charges against Justice Onnoghen were filed and served on him last Friday at his official residence in Abuja preparatory to his appearance at the tribunal.
Reacting, NBA in a statement signed by its General Secretary Jonathan Gudu Taidi described the move against Onnoghen as an assault, intimidation and desecration of the judiciary, which must stop.
The body questioned government’s position to embark on this “anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC”
The statement read in part: “Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary Must Stop
Nigerians have witnessed again the targeted assault of the judiciary by agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) epitomized by today’s media trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”). According to media reports which have now been validated by the Statement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) that was released today an application was “filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges” and that the CCT “will commence the trial on Monday, 14th January 2019”. The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.
Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination? The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes! If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has advised the Federal Government to ensure that its plans to put on trial the nation’s chief judicial officer, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, does not cause chaos and that the due process was not compromised.
Saraki in a statement signed by his Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuf Olaniyonu, in Ilorin yesterday, noted that he believes that if the Government truly has genuine reason to put the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria on trial, it should ensure that every step in the process is transparent and the normal process as provided by the law is followed to the letter.
He said a situation where the petition which triggered the trial was submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Wednesday January 8 and by January 10 on Friday, the Chief Justice was presented with it for his reply only for the charges to be drafted that same day and filed in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), all this taking place within three days and commencement of trial fixed for Monday, January 14, already indicate unnecessary haste and short-circuiting of the process of fair hearing.
In its reaction, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, yesterday warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to plunge the nation into crisis saying his party is ready to resist him.
Secondus’ statement came on the heels of the upcoming arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over his failure to declare his assets.
The issue is currently generating heated debate in the polity.
Prince Secondus at a PDP presidential rally in Jos yesterday said the party would resist the president’s attempt to ‘attack’ the judiciary.
He said President Buhari was planning to rig the 2019 elections by first compromising the judiciary.
“Thirty days to the election, Buhari and APC want to destroy Nigeria. We (PDP) will not agree. If they want crisis, they will see it,” Secondus said.