Presidency has yet to confirm the resignation of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, even as the news gathers momentum.
It was reported that Onnoghen’s resignation letter was submitted to the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, by some Justices of the apex court.
The Justices arrived at the presidential villa few minutes after President Muhammadu Buhari left Abuja for Jordan to participate in the World Economic Forum (WEF).
A presidency source confirmed that President Buhari had on Thursday, before his departure to Jordan, received the National Judicial Council’s recommendations on the petitions written against Onnoghen, and the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
The report was submitted to the president by his Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, who was accompanied by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubalar Malami, at about 220p.m on the fateful day.
The Director, Information, NJC, Mr Soji Oye, had Wednesday in a statement confirmed that the council had sent its report to President Buhari after the conclusion of its investigation into the petitions written against Onnoghen and the acting CJN.
All efforts to speak to presidential spokesmen, Mr Femi Adesina and Mallam Garba Shehu, on the matter proved abortive as the duo were outside the country on official and private engagements.
Reports indicate that Adesina is currently on President Buhari’s entourage to Jordan while Shehu is believed to be in Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage.
Onneghen, was born on the Dec. 22, 1950 at Okurike Town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State.
He began his primary school education at the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1965.
Before his appointment as the Chief Justice of the Federation, he worked with the Ministry of Justice, Ikeja, Lagos, Ogun State between 1978 to 1979, as the Pupil State Counsel.
Between 1989 – 1998, he was a High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary. During his time as the High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary he was made the Chairman of Cross Rivers State Armed Robbery and Firm Arms Tribunal and he held the post for 3 years between 1990 – 1993.
Sometime in 1996 while still holding the post of High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary, he was appointed the Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar. In 1998, he was the Chairman, Failed Bank Tribunal, Ibadan Zone.
Between the period of 1992 to 2004, he served as the Judge, High Court of Rivers State while from 1998 to 2005 he served as the Justice of the Court of Appeal.
In February 2016, Justice Onnoghen led a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court who reviewed and upheld the death sentence of Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev. King) of the Christian Praying Assembly. In 2007, Justice Onnoghen played a huge role in 2007 election which saw the Late Umaru Yar’adua as President of the federal republic of Nigeria. He had a dissenting judgment that indeed annulled the presidential election. His position was however a minority judgment.
Appointment as CJN
After being nominated as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, he was confirmed by the Senate on 1 March 2017, and sworn in on 7 March 2017.
Suspension as CJN
Onnoghen’s trials started when a petition was filed by the civil rights group at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) alleging that he owns ” sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself up to as recently as 10 August 2016, which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.” The allegations are listed here.
The trial commenced Jan. 14, 2019 at Code of Conduct Tribunal but Onnoghen was absent.
Also on Wednesday, the National Judicial Council abstained from considering allegations relating to the assets declaration that were levelled against Onnoghen.
The decision which is contained in a statement, issued by Mr Soji Oye, Director, Information, NJC.
Oye said the council took the decision at an Emergency Meeting to consider the Report of the Five-Man Committee constituted to investigate the allegations of misconduct made against Onnoghen and Justice Tanko Muhammad
“Council decided that the allegations relating to assets declaration that were levelled against Onnoghen, were subjudice and therefore abstained from considering them.
“Council reached a decision on the petitions written byEconomic and Financial Crimes Commission and others and conveyed its decision to President Mubammadu Buhari, GCFR.
“Council also resolved that, by the nature of the decision reached, it would be inappropriate to publicise it before conveying it to President”, Oye said in the statement.
On Feb 11, the council set up a preliminary complaints assessment committee to review the responses given to it by Onnoghen, and Muhammad who is acting in his stead.
Onnoghen is accused of failing to fully declare his assets, while Muhammad is facing allegations of misconduct.
The NJC said it reconvened and resolved to constitute into the Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee in accordance with Regulation 17 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2017.