Nigerians have continued to react to the judgement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal that sacked the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.
The chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Danladi Umar in his judgement said that the prosecution had proved the case of non disclosure of assets against Justice Onnoghen. He therefore announced the sack of Onnoghen as CJN, and Chairman , National Judicial Council (NJC). He also barred the embattled Justice from public for ten years. Onnoghen is also to forfeit all the assets and monies he failed to disclose to the Federal government.
Although it is not confirmed, there are reports that Onnoghen has filed a notice of appeal against the judgement. But Nigerians have been reacting to the judgement since Thursday afternoon when it was delivered by Mr Umar. While some applauded the decision of the tribunal, some were against it.
A former Solicitor General of Lagos State, and former Commissioner for Lands, Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey believes that Onnoghen deserved what he got.
He said: The man should not be allowed to escape deserved sanction, especially having brought such disrepute to such a critical institution. It is time for reckoning and people in high public office must begin to account for their stewardship. Public officers in all high offices, many of whom have contributed to Nigeria’s woes, must be ready to face heavy scrutiny”.
Arthur-Worrey, a seasoned prosecutor said further: “For too long, we have applied a twisted logic and virtual amorality in explaining away their vast wealth. I wish Mr. President will now turn his focus to the other areas that require examination, the executive, the security services and the like, areas that have such profound impact on our lives but have in many cases fallen below expectations, largely due to poor supervision and corruption”.
Jide Ojo, another lawyer asked rhetorically: “Only ten years? When this case broke, some partisans who never experienced the corruption in our judiciary infamously said democracy was on trial. It couldn’t have been. It was corruption unlimited at the citadel of justice that was on trial. Ever wondered why politicians will gladly pay N500 million to lawyers for elections cases? Haba!!! In the days of FRA,(the late Rotimi Williams SAN), justice was obtained on the altar of Freemasonry and allied cults. Today, it is on the altar of pounds, dollars and Euros. Nigeria’s judiciary must be sanitized to give Nigeria any hope of survival. Whatever may be our political leaning, give it to Buhari for opening the rot in the judiciary – long before Onnoghen. The task has begun and we pray the broom sweeps everywhere and touches everyone. Then we can hail “next level.”
But Mr Ade Adegbite, a former national officer of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) disagreed. “The judgement was not unexpected. The body language of the CCT Chairman was so predictable. The CCT Chairman in his own words before the conclusion of the trial said that the defence counsel were shielding the defendant from facing punishments for his actions;
Nothing can be more glaring and conclusive than that. As per the judgment itself, I expect the defence team to do the needful by filing Appeal against the judgment. Personally, I do not believe Justice was done in the matter. The CCT has no power to sack a CJN and do not even have any power of sentencing but can only indict and or convict. I therefore do not believe in my view that the CCT has power to order removal or sacking of the CJN. It can only make recommendation in that regard. The above position is in view of the provisions of Paragraph 18(2) of Part 1, Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution as amended which states thus:
“The punishment which the Code of Conduct Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following-_
a) vacation of office or seat in any legislative house, as the case may_ be.
b) disqualification from membership of legislative house and from the holding of any public office for a period not exceeding ten years; and
c) seizure and forteiture to the State of any_ property acquired in abuse or corruption of office”.
Foremost journalist and Executive Director, Centre for Free Speech, Mr Richard Akinnola like Adegbite believes that the judgment was expected. “With the antagonistic demeanor of the Tribunal Chairman to the defence counsel and the unusual speed with which he carried on as if he was given a deadline, the outcome was not surprising;
From the beginning when the tribunal refused to first rule on the jurisdiction, l knew the outcome of the case. This was the same tribunal that discharged Justice Ngwuta of the Supreme court on same false assets declaration charges, based on the court of Appeal decision on the Nganjiwa v. FRN. So, how can he say he had jurisdiction in respect of Onnoghen on similar charge? It’s a shame”.