The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday ordered the arrest of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen.
The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, said the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other law enforcement agencies are directed to arrest Onnoghen and bring him to the tribunal on Friday for arraignment over alleged non-declaration of assets.
Umar held that for any objection to the charge to be taken, it must be after the plea of the defendant has been taken.
“In view of the above, the tribunal having given the defendant opportunity to avail himself on several occasions and he failed; in the circumstance, the tribunal hereby issue bench warrant to the Inspector General of Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring the defendant to the Tribunal on Friday for his arraignment,” he said.
There was no concurrence or non-concurrence rulings from the other two members of the tribunal when the tribunal chairman adjourned the proceedings, stood up and walked out. The members followed him out.
Also, while the parties argued for over two hours for and against the granting of the application for arrest warrant, the tribunal chairman read his ruling from a two page paper that he brought out of his file.
The order followed an application by the prosecution counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN) urging the tribunal to compel the appearance of Onnoghen through the issuance of warrant of arrest.
“Under the circumstances, it is my sad duty to address the tribunal on S6(1) of the Practice Direction of the tribunal.I hereby humbly apply for a warrant of arrest against the defendant,” he said.
In response, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) urged the tribunal to refuse the application to issue bench warrant for seven reasons.
Among the reasons canvassed by Awomolo, he said the suspended CJN was not at the tribunal because the law said he needed not to be here. He also said the tribunal had adjourned the proceedings for hearing of the interlocutory applications and not the arraignment of the defendant, adding that the provisions of the law is that the defendant needed not be in court when interlocutory applications are being heard.
“The application (for arrest warrant) is premature, unwarranted and not consistent with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and decisions of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
“When the ex parte application that ordered his suspension was granted, he was not present and heaven did not fall. What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.
Awomolo had earlier told the tribunal that the National Judicial Council (NJC) was sitting on the allegations against Onnoghen yesterday and that it was likely that he (Onnoghen) was at the NJC.
He also said the Court of Appeal was also hearing the several appeals filed against the decisions of the tribunal yesterday.
He had therefore urged the tribunal to let the parties argue the several interlocutory applications filed before the tribunal. The applications include the ones challenging the jurisdiction and impartiality of the tribunal.