Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen has asked the Appeal Court in Abuja to stop his arrest as ordered by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT on Wednesday.
The suspended CJN, who faulted the CCT’s decision to arrest him, based his argument on 11 grounds. The suspended CJN said his decision to be absent from the CCT was not in disobedience to any order as no order to compel his attendance was served on him.
He said the tribunal erred by ordering his arrest when the application challenging its jurisdiction to hear and determine the complaints of the respondent had not been heard.
The court document read in part, “The appellant (Onnoghen) has a pending motion challenging the competence of the charge preferred against him and the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain same. Until the issue of the CCT jurisdiction being challenged by the appellant is heard and determined, the physical presence of the appellant to take his plea is not mandatory or necessary. The order of the bench warrant is a breach of the respondent’s right to appellant’s right to liberty under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”
Onnoghen said that the CCT contravened Section 266(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act when it ordered his arrest as the Act clearly states that an appellant has a right to be absent from court during the argument of an interlocutory application. Onnoghen challenged the decision of the CCT chairman not to step down despite calls for him to recuse himself due to a pending corruption charge against him and “likelihood of bias.” Onnoghen asked the Appellate Court to “give an order setting aside the order of the tribunal made on February 13, 2019; an order for the constitution of a different panel at the CCT to try him and an order dispensing his presence from the CCT.”
The Code of Conduct Tribunal had on Wednesday ordered the police and the Department of State Services to arrest the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and produce him before it on Friday. The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, made the order in a ruling on the prosecution’s application for the issuance of the arrest warrant on the grounds that Onnoghen had continued to snub the tribunal by refusing to obey summons to answer to the charges of non-declaration of assets preferred against him by the Federal Government.
However, as of the time of filing this report at about 5pm on Wednesday, The PUNCH learnt that the suspended CJN had not been arrested as he was still occupying his official residence in the Three Arms Zone. It was learnt that the CJN would avert any possibility of his arrest by reaching an agreement with the security agencies to voluntarily submit himself to the CCT on Friday.
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