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Assets Declaration Charge: I Didn’t Confess To Any Crime, Says Onnoghen

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Ex-CJN seeks acquittal, dismissal of fees LG’s legal professionals conflict, as CCT slates Thursday for judgment

Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday, berated the Federal Government for alleging that he confessed to the non-declaration of property cost that resulted to his elimination from workplace by President Muhammadu Buhari. Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Onnoghen, who voluntarily resigned his place because the CJN on April 4, maintained that opposite to Federal Government’s allegation, he didn’t at any time, admit that he dedicated any crime to warrant his trial earlier than the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja. “This case is about alleged non-declaration of property or failure to make a declaration. Counts two to 6 of the cost complained of false declarations.

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We submit that the place a complainant alleged false declaration, it presupposes that there was a declaration”, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Mr. Okon Efut, SAN, mentioned whereas adopting the defendant’s closing handle with respect to the cost. He urged the tribunal to dismiss the cost in its entirety, contending that FG did not show the weather of the crime past affordable doubt as required by legislation. On the problem of Exhibit C which was the assertion, the previous CJN made earlier than the CCB, Efut mentioned it was grossly incorrect for the prosecution to equate forgetfulness with the admittance of crime. “This submission is grossly incorrect in legislation. When he mentioned he forgot, that didn’t quantity to a confession. He didn’t confess to the cost. The defendant can’t be convicted for an offence that’s unknown to the legislation, for which there isn’t a prescribed punishment. “The allegation right here is that he failed or falsely omitted to declare property. But our place is that there isn’t a such offence that’s identified to the legislation in Nigeria. Until the legislation is effectively outlined, an accused can’t be punished for an unknown offence.

“There is evidence that the defendant substantially declared all his assets and it is not true that he did not declare his assets since 2005 until 2016. In fact, this argument even defeats their case because they said that he falsely declared. What we are saying is that the prosecution has woefully failed to prove its case,” the defence lawyer insisted. More so, Onnoghen argued that part 15 of the CCB and Tribunal Act, is in battle with Paragraph 11 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. He argued that the part upon which FG hinged the cost towards him, was unconstitutional and should be declared null and void. Consequently, the defendant prayed the tribunal to discharge and acquit him of all of the allegations towards him. However, Federal Government, by means of its lawyer, Mr Aliyu Umar, SAN, requested the CCT to convict and impose most punishment on the previous CJN, contending that it efficiently established that he acted in breach of the code of conduct for public officers within the nation. In its written handle, Federal Government additional urged the tribunal to carry that the prosecution proved its case towards the defendant, past each affordable doubt. “We urge this tribunal to rely on hard facts before it and convict the defendant accordingly,” Federal Government said. It additional bolstered its place that the ex-CJN admitted that he forgot to declare his possession of assorted financial institution accounts that have been operational as on the time he declared his property in 2016. “Whether or not forgetfulness is an offence, is for your Lordships to determine,” FG added.

Moreover, FG argued that it was not in Onnoghen’s place to find out whether or not or not the cost towards him was proved past an inexpensive doubt, saying “The defendant cannot place a burden that the Constitution has not placed on the prosecution.” FG’s legal professionals’ conflict Meanwhile, there was sharp disagreement in FG’s camp instantly the CCT commenced its continuing, yesterday, as two senior legal professionals within the prosecution group, struggled for the microphone to handle the panel. Shortly after FG’s lead counsel, Mr Umar, SAN, introduced his look, a member of his group, Prof. Zainab Duke, tried to take over the microphone to handle the Mr Danladi Umar-led three-man tribunal. With a paper in her hand, Prof. Duke tried to make use of the microphone however Umar, SAN, rapidly grabbed it and shouted on her to sit down down. “There cannot be two leading counsel in this matter. Sit down! You cannot speak,” Umar famous. Meantime, Prof. Duke, who struggled to regain her place after she sank to her seat in the midst of a wrestle for the microphone with Umar, didn’t surrender, as she saved shouting, “My lord, I need your protection.” Intervening, the CCT Chairman, Mr Umar, urged each events to settle down, after which he foreclosed Prof. Duke from addressing the tribunal on behalf of the prosecution. “Only one of you can speak for the team. Whatever you have to say to us, I suggest that you inform the lead counsel,” the CCT Chairman said. CCT fixes Thursday for judgment Meanwhile, the tribunal mounted Thursday to ship judgment on the cost towards Onnoghen.

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The tribunal mentioned it will additionally on that day, ship a ruling on two functions the erstwhile CJN filed to problem the competence of the legal continuing the federal government initiated towards him. The utility was accordingly granted by the tribunal which ordered her exit, whilst the previous CJN watched the drama from his vantage place within the dock. Nevertheless, talking to newsmen exterior the courtroom, Prof Duke mentioned she solely needed to attract the eye of the tribunal to the similarity between Onnoghen’s trial and a case she mentioned passed off in England over 300 years in the past. Meanwhile, the tribunal mounted Thursday to ship judgment on the cost towards Onnoghen. The tribunal mentioned it will additionally on that day, ship a ruling on two functions the erstwhile CJN filed to problem the competence of the legal continuing the federal government initiated towards him.

FG had within the cost marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, alleged that Onnoghen’s failure to correctly declare his property, was in violation of part 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. However, in opposition to his trial, Justice Onnoghen, queried the validity of the cost towards him, stressing that FG violated established judicial precedents by not permitting the National Judicial Council, NJC, to firstly examine the allegation towards him, earlier than it rushed the matter to the CCT. He argued that failure to channel the petition towards him, in addition to the result of the investigation that was purportedly carried out on property declaration types he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to the NJC, rendered the cost invalid. Justice Onnoghen drew the eye of the tribunal to its judgment that quashed an analogous cost towards one other Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, on the bottom that the NJC should have been allowed to look into the matter earlier than the case was filed. He careworn that the 2 judgments have been but to be put aside by the Supreme Court.

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Aside from difficult powers of the tribunal to attempt him, Onnoghen, mentioned he was afraid that he wouldn’t be accorded truthful listening to by the tribunal which he described as an appendage of the Presidency. He insisted that he was entitled to a good listening to by an unbiased and neutral tribunal, below part 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The defendant argued that the CCB which beneficial his trial, the Attorney General of the Federation who’s prosecuting him, and the tribunal itself, are all answerable to the Executive Arm of the federal government.

He equally requested the CCT chairman to disqualify himself from the matter contemplating that he equally has a legal allegation pending towards him. The tribunal had in a ruling on March 11, relied on part 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and Paragraph 5(5) of its Practice Direction, held that it will not think about the benefit of Onnoghen’s objection to the cost, until conclusion of the trial. While FG closed its case towards the ex-CJN after it produced three witnesses to testify earlier than the tribunal, the Defendant who initially proposed to additionally name three witnesses to defend the cost, introduced his determination to shut his defence after his driver testified that he was current when the disputed asset declaration types have been submitted at CCB’s head workplace in Abuja.

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