Proceedings of the scheduled arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has started but he is nowhere to be found.
Members of the Justice Danladi Umar-led three-man tribunal arrived in the courtroom at exactly 10am, with the matter called at 10.01on Monday morning.
The court official who announced the case observed that CJN was not present and then notified the tribunal chairman of the development.
After the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar, SAN, announced his appearance, the tribunal asked the court official whether the CJN had been served with the charges and summons.
Four lawyers appeared with the lead prosecuting counsel
The court official confirmed that the CJN was served through his personal assistant.
He said, “He was served through his personal assistant. We went to his house and the defendant directed his personal assistant to collect the charge on his behalf.
“So the defendant has been served.”
The CJN was accused of false declaration of assets. The federal government had filed six counts charge against him.
Counsel to Onnoghen, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter. He led about 30 senior advocates with about 47 other lawyers, making about 87 were on record as appearing for the CJN on Monday.
“You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter,” Olanipekun told the tribunal chairman.
He argued that Onnoghen has not been indicted by the National Judicial Council, NJC, as legally required of serving judges before his matter was picked up by the tribunal following a petition filed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Olanipekun also said the CJN was not given enough time to prepare for his arraignment before being summoned by the tribunal.
The chief justice was charged with six counts of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB on January 10.
The charges followed a petition brought against him by a group, the Anti-corruption Research and Data Based Initiative, headed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and former official of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Denis Aghanya.
Newsworth recalls that five governors from the South-South had asked Onnoghen to ignore the summons by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The governors, who met in Abuja on Sunday, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of not having any regards for the feelings of the Niger Delta.
The Code of Conduct Bureau has filed charged bordering on non-declaration of assets against Onnoghen and is expected to appear the tribunal on Monday.
The governors said the trial is “directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the region” and described it as “totally unacceptable”.
In the communique issued by the governors after their emergency meeting, they also pointed to the removal of Matthew Seiyefa, from Bayelsa state, as acting director-general of the Department of State Service as an indication of the “endless marginalization and intimidation” of the south-south geo-political zone.
The communique was signed by Governors Henry Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) — all members of the PDP. Godwin Obaseki (Edo), the only APC governor from the south-south, did not attend the meeting.