Onnoghen’s Trial And Rule Of Law

Justice Onnoghen

Nigerians woke up in the morning of January 7, 2019 to hear that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen was a very corrupt man and that he would be charged to court on the 11th of January, 2019.
The news initially was thought to be just a rumour but when it was confirmed, there was hues and cries across the country.
One funny allegation was that he did not declare one of his assets ..Domiciliary account, which did not hold water. For every public servant, asset declaration is done every four years. And if a person gets a political appointment or elective post, it is done twice, while taking the oath of office and when the person is about to leave or leaves. These are the only stipulated periods assets are declared.
So, if the Chief Justice buy shares in a company or invests his fund in a business venture, years or months after declaring his asset on assumption of office, it is not a crime, asset declaration is not done every month.
The question here is not whether Chief Justice is guilty or not guilty but in tackling issues of corruption, the Federal Government has continuously goofed and made itself look foolish in the eyes of the public and the international community.
This is the second attempt to assault and rubbish the judiciary. 2016, the residence of six justices were raided with crow bars, chisels and hammers, their doors broken, furniture thrashed and the justices were accused of corruption and illegal possession of arm and ammunition, all these deeds were done at midnight, but at the end of the day the government still goofed as noting substantial could be deduced from its action.
The disturbing feeling here is that this ugly trend is coming barely month to the presidential and general elections in the country. And to the discerning mind it has political undertones. this is because to some observers of Nigerian politics, Justice Walter Onneghen, was never at any time the preferred candidate for the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria by who rather believes in appointing people he could trust especially persons of Northern extraction, preferably his fellow Muslim.
This feeling cannot be easily dismissed as virtually all heads of the country’s security outfits are headed by people from one section of the country and the only arm of government that is still outside this reach is the office of the CJN.
In condemning the recent assault on the judiciary, eminent nigerians including governors, legal practitioners; human rights activists and opposition political parties said the action was not only nauseating but a shame on the government for ridiculing itself in the eyes of the public and the international community. They said under the 1999 constitution, section 158 (1) it is only the National Judicial Council, NJC, that has the ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of Judicial officers, adding that without following the laid down procedure those responsible for the infamous act are just wasting their time.
What makes the proposed arraignment of the chief justice before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) look picious To that the petition was submitted to the EFCC on 7th of January and within 48 hours investigation has been concluded and the Chief Justice was invited to appear before the CCT on the 11th of January.
The psychological warfare being waged by the All Progessives Congress-led Federal Government right from its inception in 2019 against its Progressives political opponents and those it disagrees with on constitutional issues has been unrelenting. All what is does is tag someone as being corrupt, leak the information to the social media and other selected media houses and fan the flames of disinformation and propaganda and the rest they say is history. But one thing we should understand is that in a democracy dissent, criticism opposition, legislative and judicial independence are virtually part of the system.
Nigerians should be grateful that we have a vibrant media, judiciary and active set of social justice advocates otherwise the country would have been like Uganda under the dictatorship of late President Idi Amin who brooked no criticism, dissent or opposition to his rule.
After killing over 300,000 people or sending hundreds of thousands into exile his next target was the judiciary. He even had the effrontery to order the killing of the Chief Justice of Ugunda, Justice Benedicto Luwum. The justice was kidnapped right in his office at the court premises in broad day light in 1972 in Kampala and was never seen again.
When some Nigerians expressed their long held view that General Buhari has not shed his military posture, is not a democrat and will not fit in well in a democratic culture the naive ones disagreed and today what do we have? Yesterday, it was former President Goodluck Jonathan who was vilified, almost on a daily basis, then it was the turn of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki Saraki was accused of not declaming his asset of which he was discharged and acquitted.
Later he was accused of sponsoring armed robbers and he is still battling with the police. After Saraka Dino Meleye was next. Today it is the Chief justice, Justice Walter Onneghen Don’t be surprised if tomorrow it wont be the turn of one prominent critic or presidential candidate being accused of running a prostitution ring or peddling hard drugs.
It seems that the present administration has a dirty tricks department where allegations are cooked up against potential threats to its interest. The notion could not be farfetched as its modus operandus has always been the same, no finess, same story corruption and nothing else. For God’s sake there are other teething problems bedeviling the country. The presidency and the APC should focus more on issues like job creation, rapid infrastructure education, power supply than sing the archaic song of corruption ! corruption ! corruption !!!.
There is no country where you don’t have corrupt elements but in Nigeria we seem to have lost focus and instead of being holistic in our approach to issues have become “Tunneled visioned”. We can’t think outside the pox that’s why the democratic culture in most African countries are by far better than that of Nigeria.
The Judiciary in Nigeria is well respected globally, that is why prominent Nigerian jurists have served in the Gambia, Sieme Leone, Uganda and even at the Hague. And if the corruption mantra is so widely spread will these jurists be called to serve in these places?
The Nigerian Bar Association and other well meaning Nigerians must speak out and act now otherwise our hard earned freedom for a democratic culture will eventually fizzle out. Not even under the military rule where judges riducled and harassed publicly. This action has really taken Nigeria to the stone age. Wake up Nigerians! Wake up !!

Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye