Connect with us

Featured

CCT Trial: Onnoghen Kicks Over Conviction …Heads To Court Of Appeal …We ‘ll React Formally -PDP

Published

on

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), sitting in Abuja, yesterday, convicted the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on all the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
The Danladi Umar-led three-man panel tribunal said it was satisfied that the Federal Government successfully proved its allegation that Onnoghen, who had voluntarily resigned his position as CJN on April 4, acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers in the country.
But Onnoghen, through his lawyer, Mr. Okon Efut, SAN, gave a hint that he would appeal against his conviction by the CCT.
Though the former CJN declined to speak to journalists, his lawyer, in his reaction, insisted that the judgement was in breach of the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
He alleged that the verdict was premeditated, adding that the CCT had on January 23 when it granted the ex-parte order President Muhammadu Buhari relied upon on January 25, to remove Justice Onnoghen from office as the CJN, revealed its position on the matter.
Umar had held that evidence of three witnesses that testified in the course of the trial, were not discredited by the defendant who was accused of failing to properly declare his assets, as well as operating five domiciliary foreign bank accounts.
The CCT chairman, who read the judgement, maintained that admission by the embattled former CJN that he forgot to declare the five accounts he operated since 2009, was “weighty enough” to guarantee his conviction.
He held that the defendant was unable to disprove “hard facts” that were brought against him by the prosecution.
“The prosecution has discharged the onus placed on it beyond every iota of doubt. It is clear that the defendant was in clear breach of the code of conduct for public officers. The prosecution successfully established its case, and the defendant is accordingly convicted”, the CCT chairman added.
Consequently, handing its sentence after it declared the defendant guilty, the tribunal, ordered that he is “hereby removed from office as the Chief Justice of the Nigeria, chairman of the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
“Secondly, the defendant is hereby banned from holding any public office for 10 years”.
More so, the tribunal held that Onnoghen’s failure to explain how he amassed “huge amounts of money in his accounts”, was an indication that the funds were acquired illegally.
It, therefore, ordered that the funds should be “confiscated, seized and forfeited to the Federal Government”.
Meanwhile, Onnoghen, who appeared unruffled in the dock while the judgement was delivered, declined offer by the CCT chairman to plead for clemency.
Umar had before he commenced the sentencing, asked the defendant if he would like to make a plea of allocutus (for mercy), but Onnoghen simply bowed his head and told him, “no comment”.
Earlier before the judgment was delivered, the CCT boss, dismissed two preliminary objections the former CJN lodged to challenge the legal propriety of his trial.
Umar held that the CCT had the requisite jurisdiction to try the ex-CJN on the allegation that he falsely declared his assets.
He maintained that FG did not violate any portion of the law by bye-passing the National Judicial Council (NJC) to file the charge.
Umar said the tribunal was minded to overrule itself by departing from the position it took in a similar case the government instituted against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court.
The CCT held that sections 158(1) and Paragraph 21(6) of the Third Schedule to the1999 Constitution, as amended, was not applicable in the case since FG did not charge the former CJN as a serving judicial officer, but as an ordinary public officer that acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers.
“We resolve this issue against the defendant. The tribunal hereby affirm its jurisdiction to entertain the charge against the defendant which is competent.
“Though the tribunal is not unmindful of its previous decision in the case of Ngwuta, the tribunal will not hesitate to overrule itself in any previous decision which it is satisfied was reached on wrong reasons.
“I agree that we should do so in this case. In other words, the tribunal hereby reverses itself as regards the case against Ngwuta.
“The tribunal hereby overrules itself in the case of Ngwuta. The preliminary objection lacks merit and is hereby refused”, Umar held.
In a second ruling, the CCT chairman, said there was no merit in the former CJN’s application that he should recuse himself from the matter considering that he equally has a criminal allegation hanging on his neck.
Umar admitted that though it was a bribery allegation that was levelled against him, he said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had in two separate letters dated March 5, 2015, and April 20, 2016, cleared him of any wrongdoing.
He said an initial charge that was entered against him was subsequently withdrawn by the EFCC on November 8, 2018.
“The issue regarding bribery allegation against the chairman has been resolved by the EFCC. All the issues raised by the Applicant have been dealt with without any ambiguity.
“The chairman is competent to proceed with the case”.
Besides, the CCT boss dismissed as unfounded, Onnoghen’s contention that he would not be granted fair hearing since the panel is answerable to the Presidency which was behind his travails.
Umar insisted that though the CCT is not directly under the NJC or the Federal Judicial Service Commission, he said the Presidency does not have any control over its decisions.
“Notwithstanding that the CCT is under the Presidency, that does not mean that it will bow under the whims and caprices of the Presidency or fail to decide cases brought before it dispassionately.
“All judges of courts of superior records are appointed by the President, including Chairman and members of the CCT. That does not reduce them to agents or appendages of the President”, he held.
Meantime, Justice Onnoghen, through his lawyer, Mr. Okon Efut, SAN, gave a hint that he would appeal against his conviction by the CCT.
Efuk said: “The journey has ended today because everything that has a beginning must have an end. So, this day, we have heard that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has been convicted and sentenced. The conviction is out of order, it is unconstitutional. It is a breach of fair hearing because before this day, on the January 23, the same judgement had been passed before now, removing the CJN without a fair hearing.
“So, it was a fair accompli, it was premeditated gas judgment had been passed before today. So, today’s judgement is just a formality and we hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the constitution of Nigeria, it has breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“It has not only been able to pass judgement, it has convicted for an offence that was never charged and this is an erosion of the fundamental principles of our constitution. Until some questions are answered, for instance, why is it that the due course of justice was not allowed to flow? Why was judgement passed on January 23 before today, removing the CJN?
“Why is it that today, even after the CJN had tendered his notice of voluntary retirement and the NJC has taken a position, why is it that the tribunal has gone ahead to pass a judgement in total disregard of the independence of the NJC, in total disregard of the powers of the Senate in this matter? We hold a view that the tribunal in reversing itself in the case of Ngwuta, has breached the principle that hold us together.
“This is a sad day in our nation’s democracy and we know that all is not over with this matter. The wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely. This is not a matter that will end here. We shall avail ourselves of all the processes, the hierarchy of the judiciary and we know that the judiciary will redeem itself even though seriously battered and bruised. The judiciary will do justice. Justice has not been done today, but it will surely be done tomorrow. If not by the tribunal, but by our God. Justice will be done by our God”, he added.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had last Monday, reserved judgment on the matter after FG and Onnoghen adopted their final written arguments on Monday. Whereas Onnoghen urged the tribunal to discharge and acquit him, insisting that the FG failed to prove that he committed any offence that is known to the law.
On the other hand, Federal Government, asked the CCT to convict and impose maximum punishment on the former CJN, contending that it successfully established that he acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers in the country.
The Federal Governemnt had in the charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, alleged that Onnoghen’s failure to properly declare his assets, was in violation of section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
It further alleged that the ex-CJN, who was suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to the code of conduct for public officers.
However, in opposition to his trial, Justice Onnoghen, queried the validity of the charge against him, stressing that FG violated established judicial precedents by not allowing the National Judicial Council, NJC, to firstly investigate the allegation against him, before it rushed the matter to the CCT.
He argued that failure to channel the petition against him, as well as the outcome of the investigation that was purportedly conducted on assets declaration forms he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to the NJC, rendered the charge invalid.
More so, the defendant urged the CCT to abide by a subsisting Court of Appeal decision in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391, to the effect that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer, must first be reported to and handled by the NJC, pursuant to the provisions of the laws.
He maintained that only after the NJC had pronounced against such judicial officer could prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed to initiate a criminal proceeding.
Justice Onnoghen drew attention of the tribunal to its judgment that quashed a similar charge against another Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, on the ground that the NJC ought to have been allowed to look into the matter before the case was filed. He stressed that the two judgments were yet to be set aside by the Supreme Court.
Aside challenging powers of the tribunal to try him, Onnoghen, said he was afraid that he would not be accorded fair hearing by the tribunal which he described as an appendage of the Presidency.
He insisted that he was entitled to fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, under section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The defendant argued that the CCB which recommended his trial, the Attorney General of the Federation who is prosecuting him, and the tribunal itself, are all answerable to the Executive Arm of the government.
He equally asked the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from the matter considering that he equally has a criminal allegation pending against him.
Nevertheless, the tribunal, in a ruling on March 11, relied on section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and Paragraph 5(5) of its Practice Direction, and held that it would not consider the merit of Onnoghen’s objection to the charge, till conclusion of the trial.
While Federal Government closed its case against the ex-CJN after it produced three witnesses to testify before the tribunal, the embattled former CJN who initially proposed to also call three witnesses to defend the charge, announced his decision to close his defence after his driver testified to the fact that he was present when the defendant submitted his assets declaration forms at CCB’s head office in Abuja.
Onnoghen had on April 4, resigned his position as CJN, shortly after the NJC, sent report of if its investigation into the allegation against him, to President Buhari.
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that it will react formally to, yesterday’s sacking of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, has said.
Onnoghen was dismissed by Code of Conduct Tribunal, yesterday, in a judgment by its Chairman, Danladi Umar, who also barred him from holding any public office for a period of ten years in addition to forfeiture of cash in five accounts he failed to declare at the Code of Conduct Bureau.
“We will react formally, that’s for sure,” the publicity scribe said, even as he reiterated the support of the party in the fight against corruption.
Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Dr. Muhammed Isah, urging him to use his “good offices and leadership position to urgently provide information on specific details of asset declarations submitted to the CCB by successive presidents and state governors since the return of democracy in 1999.”
SERAP is seeking information on: “details of asset declarations by successive presidents and state governors between 1999 and 2019, including details of declarations made immediately after taking offices and thereafter, and for those who have left public offices, at the end of their term of office. Information is also sought on the number of asset declarations so far verified by the CCB and the number of those declarations found to be false and deemed to be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, by the Bureau.”
In the FOI request dated 18 April, 2019, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “While we welcome the judgment by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Justice Walter Onnoghen, we now urge the CCB to extent its mandates to enforce constitutional provisions on asset declarations by public officers to cover elected officers and to vigorously pursue the prosecution of any such officers who use their powers either as presidents or state governors over public funds to enrich themselves.”
According to the organization, “While judicial corruption is bad, the level of corruption involving many politicians since 1999 and the entrenched culture of impunity of perpetrators is equally appalling. Publishing the asset declarations of elected public officers since the return of democracy in 1999 to date would improve public trust in the ability of the Bureau to effectively discharge its mandates. This would in turn put pressure on public officers like presidents and state governors to make voluntary public declaration of their assets.”
The FOI request read in part: “SERAP is concerned that many politicians hide behind the fact that members of the public do not have access to their asset declarations to make false declarations, and to cover up assets illegally acquired in corruption or abuse of office.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Featured

COVID-19 Decisions Are Taken By State Security Council – Governor Wike

Published

on

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has stated that the State Security Council takes all decisions  in  the prosecution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the State.

Governor Wike who stated this on Tuesday when the Executive of the Nigeria Hotel Association, Rivers State Chapter paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt pointed out that he has never taken any unilateral decision.

The State Chief Executive noted that all decisions taken by the State Government are for the overall good and interest of the Rivers people as no right thinking government would deliberately take decisions that would negatively affect the lives of the people.

 

“I don’t take decisions alone in the fight against COVID-19. All decisions are taken  by the State Security Council and they are for the overall interest of Rivers people.

” You know people applaud government decisions when it  suits them but when it does not favour them they say it is  politically motivated.

“Rivers State Government does not have anything against hoteliers in the state, but decided to shutdown their activities because some cases of  COVID-19 were recorded in hotels,” he stated.

Governor Wike also blamed the hoteliers for failing to assist government in providing relevant information regarding those that test positive of the coronavirus in their hotels.

According to him, adequate information would have helped  the State Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to carry out proper contact tracing.

“Its not possible that the State Government will intentionally close down hotels. But what I see is that people play politics with everything.

“The  demolition of Prodest Hotel and Etemeteh Hotel in Eleme Local Government Area by the State Government became necessary because the owners failed to comply with  Executive Order 7,” he said.

 

The State Chief Executive stated that he is more pained than any other person in the state that churches and mosques are not holding their full religious activities because of COVID-19.

“I can’t believe that I will be sitting here as a Governor and take a painful decision that will make  churches and mosques not to hold full religious activities, ” he said.

The Governor lauded members of the State Chapter of Nigeria Hotel Association for identifying with government efforts in the fight against COVID- 19.

 

Earlier, the State Chairman, Nigeria Hotel Association, Mr. Eugene Nwauzi commended Governor Wike for leading the fight against coronavirus in the country.

Mr. Nwauzi noted that but for the efforts put in place by the Governor, the spread of COVID-19 would have taken a dangerous dimension in the state.

He however appealed to the State Government to  relax the ban on hotel businesses, assuring that all protocols put in place for the containment of the spread of the virus would be fully observed by hoteliers.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Featured

RSG Cancels Lockdown Of Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt Local Government

Published

on

? Imposes state-wide curfew 8p.m to 6a.m from June 2, 2020 till further notice
? Uncovers plan by one Bobosky to instigate violence in 6 LGAs
? Investigating alleged outbreak of coronavirus in Bonny LGA

Rivers State Government has cancelled the proposed lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas scheduled to resume tomorrow.

Governor Nyesom Wike who stated this in a state-wide broadcast also announced the imposition of 8p.m to 6am curfew in the 23 Local Government Areas of the State with effect from June 2,2020 till further notice.

The Governor also revealed that government has uncovered plans by some criminal elements led by one Bobosky to cause security breaches in Khana, Eleme,Gokana, Tai, Oyigbo and Ikwerre Local Government Areas.

“After a comprehensive review of the measures taken and further considerations placed before us by well-meaning members of the public, the State Security Council has decided to cancel the proposed lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas of the State.

“In essence, no part of Rivers State is or will be under any lockdown from this moment and this will be so, except where it becomes necessary again.

“As we all know, the regular washing of hands, religious wearing of face masks, keeping effective physical and social distance of between 1.5 to 2 meters from other people, completely avoiding touching of faces with unwashed hands, and cleaning of surfaces we regularly touch have been identified as some of the most effective measures against contracting this virus in the absence of vaccine, ” he said.

 

According to the Governor, government would re-enforce the decisions on the continuous implementation of the following measures throughout the State:

(i) All land borders, including all exit and entry routes into Rivers State shall remain closed to human and vehicular traffic, except those on essential services and duly exempted.

(ii) All residents must wear face masks or covering into any public space, including our roads, banks, shopping malls, shops, hotels and in any lawful social gathering.

(iii) The State task force and the security agencies have been directed to arrest and summarily prosecute any person seen on our streets or any other public place without wearing face masks.

(iv) All banks, motor parks, hotels, restaurants, shops, business centres, shopping malls, and offices must maintain social distancing and enforce the wearing of face masks in their premises.

 

(v) The State task force and security agencies have been directed to seal up, prosecute and confiscate to the State any bank, shopping mall, restaurant, shop, business place or office that fails to enforce social distancing and the wearing of face masks in its premises.

(vi) In addition to providing daily guest list to the Police and the Department of State Security, hoteliers must not host large gatherings, including parties and receptions. Defaulting hotels will be sealed-up and the owners summarily prosecuted.

(vii) All bars, beer palours, or drinking joints, night-clubs, viewing centres, open markets and cinemas shall remain closed until further notice;

(viii) Oil mill market in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area shall remain closed until further notice;

(ix) Oginigba Slaughter market in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area shall similarly remain closed until further notice.

 

(x) Mbiama market in Ahoada West Local Government Area shall also remain closed until further notice;

(xi) All public weddings, burials and large social gatherings shall remain banned.

(xii) Churches and other religious gatherings should continue to comply with the existing advisory on social distancing, initiate temperature checks and enforce the wearing of face masks during their activities;

(xiii) Dealers in Ikoku Spare Parts markets are warned for the last time to stop converting public roads to mechanic workshops or risk final closure.

(xiv) Similarly, no mechanic workshop should be found along Ikwerre road as Government will prosecute defaulters and confiscate any vehicle being repaired on any public road.

(xv) Private and commercial vehicles, including tricycles must continue to limit their passengers to the number earlier established and enforce the wearing of face masks by all passengers. Defaulters will be prosecuted and their vehicles confiscated by the Task force.

These measures, he said, are in the best interest of our State, to protect our lives, businesses, and jobs as well as, to prevent our troubled economy from suffering irreparable damage.

“This also means that, residents now bear much greater responsibility to stop and prevent our State from suffering the exponential and potentially devastating spread of the virus being experienced across the

“As 60% of the positive cases recorded in the State are connected with oil company workers, we have initiated a meeting with all the major oil companies to work out strategies on how we can stop this trend and stop the risk this category of workers now pose to the State.

“Government is also investigating the rumored or suspected outbreak of the coronavirus at Bonny Island.

 

“Our team of medical personnel led by the Commissioner for Health has visited Bonny Island and collected samples from suspected cases for analysis and immediate intervention should the results indicate the outbreak of the virus in the area, “the governor said.

The State Chief Executive also revealed that intelligence has intercepted a clandestine plan by some criminal elements led by Bobosky to cause security breaches in the State by instigating violence and burning down churches in Khana, Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Oyigbo Local Government Areas of the State.

He  assured all residents that the State Government is fully ready and prepared to deal with the situation and continue to guarantee the protection of lives and property throughout the State.

The Governor implored all residents to be vigilant and report all suspicious characters and movements in their neighbourhoods to security agencies.

 

“Leaders and vigilante groups in our communities are to work with the security agencies to enforce  curfew in their localities and arrest and prosecute anyone that violates the curfew order.

“We urge our people to stop the fake news on social media; stop the baseless bickering, the needless blame game, and the seditious rumours that does no good to our image or provide any solution to the common challenges that we face.

“Rather, we should all come together, put our fate in our own hands and work for the common good of all, whether as individuals, families or as communities,” he stated.

The Governor commended all health workers who have continued to put their lives at risk in the forefront in the battle against  COVID-19.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Featured

Governor Wike Releases N450M To 2019 Presidential Election Violence Victims In Abonnema

Published

on

The State Chief Executive Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has released the sum of Four hundred and fifty million naira to the victims of the 2019 Presidential election violence in Abonnema.
Speaking during  a meeting preparatory to giving out the cash, Governor Wike  said the gesture is in fulfilment of his promise to the people of Abonnema  at the Church service to honour those who lost their lives, the injured and those who lost properties during the crisis.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government Dr. Tammy Wenike  Danagogo, Governor Wike said no amount of money could adequately compensate the people for the harrowing experience they suffered in the hands of the Nigerian Army, stating that he appreciates the support and commitment of the People of  Akuku Toru Local Government Area before, during and after the elections. He said he would continue to execute programmes that would positively impact on the lives of the people of the  Area.
He assured them that the second phase of the Abonnema ring road would be commissioned before the end of June, stressing that the contractor has been fully paid.
According to him in the face of the Covid 19 Pandemic he has continued to stand by the People of the State by taking practical steps not only to protect Rivers People but to also provide palliatives to bring succour to the vulnerable and less privileged unlike the   selfish politicians in other political  parties who only visit the people to solicit for votes during elections but do not have the interest of the people at heart.
In his remarks the Amayanabo of Abonnema King Disrael  Gbobo Bobmanuel thanked  Governor Wike for fulfilling his promise to the Abonnema People, noting that the Governor has proven over the years that his word is his bond.
According to him the Governor is a man worthy of trust and support because he has fulfilled all his promises to the Abonnema People. He Advised beneficiaries to make judicious use of the Money the Governor has graciously given to them.
Earlier the Chairman of Akuku Toru Local Government Area Hon. Roland Sekibo who said he is still traumatized by the events that took place during the Presidential election in 2019 expressed gratitude to Governor Wike for his kind gesture, stressing that the People of his Local Government Area would continue to support the Governor in his quest to improve the lives of Rivers People.
Also speaking one of the beneficiaries Mr  Minamiango Romeo  who sustained gunshot injuries  expressed gratitude to Governor Wike for not abandoning them in their time of need and promised to continue to support his Administration and the leaders of the Local Government Area.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Trending