The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), yesterday, dismissed the no case submission filed last week by the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Justice Onnoghen through his counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had filed a no case submission when the prosecution closed its case after calling only three witnesses.
The matter was then adjourned till yesterday. And at the resumed sitting, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), urged the tribunal to quash the charges against his client on the ground that the Code of Conduct Bureau did not comply with relevant laws before filing the charge.
He submitted that CCB also failed to investigate the petition brought against Onnoghen by Denis Aganya before proceeding to file a charge before the CCT.
According to the defense counsel, the two asset declaration forms submitted by Justice Onnoghen were not verified by CCB before charges were filed.
He also argued that the evidence given by the three prosecution witnesses were discredited in the course of cross-examination.
In addition, he noted that the witnesses were not signatories or makers of the documents tendered at the tribunal.
However, delivering ruling on the no case submission,” the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, held that there were sufficient grounds to compel Justice Onnoghen to enter his defence, especially in view of the confessional statement he made on his undeclared bank accounts.
Danladi was of the view that by filing the no case submission, Justice Onnoghen attempted at evading punishment due to him in relation to his confessional statement.
Umar further stated that the defendant’s argument that the procedure was not followed did not reduce that an offense has been committed by his failure to declare his account with the Standard Chartered Bank.
He added that his duty as the chairman of the tribunal was to do justice to the charge brought before the tribunal irrespective of the manner in which it came.
“This is the court that relies on the substance of the charge and not on the procedure,” Umar stated. The CCT boss added that, “this tribunal will never fail to administer justice to whosoever appears before it irrespective of status. After all, everyone is equal before God.
“From the President to the shoemaker, we are all equal. The ‘No case submission’ is hereby discountenanced and refused”, he said.
With this, Umar adjourned the matter till next week Monday.
Trouble, however, started when the defence counsel pleaded for extension of time to enable the defendant prepare for his defence.
Awomolo had prayed Umar to adjourn till next Friday but he insisted that the matter continues on Monday.
In an emotion laden voice, Awomolo pleaded with the CCT boss to reconsider his stand in the interest of justice.
“Give us, give us, give us, don’t oppress us, you are oppressing us,” he said. But as he continued with his pleading, Umar, without looking back, took a bow and stormed out of the courtroom.
As soon as Umar left the courtroom, the defense teams for both parties engaged in a shouting match that lasted several minutes.
Awomolo insisted that the defense team in support of the no case submission raised eight points.
According to him, there was no proper investigation before charges were filed and there was no compliance with the law in the entire process. “We cannot fight corruption with corrupt practice, lies and propaganda. The chairman has taken over the power of the two other members of the tribunal, not allowing them to talk.
“There was nothing before the tribunal but the chairman was using his own experience to give ruling. If this is judgment in the face of Nigeria, then the country is doomed”, Awomolo stated.
Meanwhile, Justice Onnoghen has quickly filed a notice of appeal challenging the decision of CCT.
The appeal was predicated upon three grounds, including the fact that the tribunal erred in law when it dismissed his no case submission without taking due process into cognisance.
Onnoghen claimed that the CCB was bound by the Code of Conduct standard operation procedure 2017 with respect to investigation and report of investigation.
He also relied on the testimony of the first witness where he stated that investigation has not been conducted.
He, therefore, prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the tribunal, which stated that he has a case to answer.
Above all, he wants the court to discharge and acquit him.