There was a trial before the Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen was docked and given a fair chance to defend his name on the allegations levelled against him. It seems that the media trials of prominent personalities who are presumed to be too big to easily take down in a whiff have come to stay.
In less than a week, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), an agency of the Federal Government, initiated a summons seeking the appearance of Onnoghen to appear at CCB on Monday, 14th January, consequent upon a petition related to his asset declaration.
The media trial would have involved having the Chief Justice of Nigeria docked, looking morose in the witness box, and in the first instance shamed before the public eye; regardless of whether he is pronounced guilty or not. Such is the reality of the present world where little or no regard is being given to laid-out processes, ideals or principles as reality plays out.
There have been insinuations in political quarters, however, that this move to disgrace the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is politically motivated and largely connected to possible unfavourable pronouncements the Supreme Court could enforce at the presidential election at tribunal sittings. It was a perfectly hatched gambit which the infamous cabal surrounding the President must have thought was best for their selfish ambitions. This, conversely, is a strategy which seeks to ridicule regard for the independence of our institutions, law and order.
At the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Monday, which Onnoghen did not show up at, the shoddiness in preparation and process by the prosecutors was evident as it was revealed that the CJN was not served the summons in person. It was discovered that the CJN’s personal assistant received the papers and which will never be tantamount to personal service in litigation. Aside from this obvious gaffe by the prosecutors, it is easy to smell foul play with the hurriedness with which the CCB activated this trial in less than 7 days of receiving the petition. Given that the matter super-accelerated hearing is too suspicious to overlook.
It would be later in the weekend, however, that more facts as to the origins of the petition revealed that a former aide to President Buhari, Dennis Aghanya, who also heads a suspicious NGO- Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative -instigated the trial. How much more are we to know about how directly or indirectly connected to the president this originating petition is?
While some have argued that if the CJN is truly culpable in not fully declaring his assets, would it not be proper to go through the right channel of investigation and prosecution? It is well-known in the informed community that a judge cannot be made to appear for prosecution in any court of law for alleged crimes unless the same matter has been brought to the notice of the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to act on accordingly while recommending appropriate disciplinary action if applicable. That the CCB decided to put the cart before the horse and to circumvent the law is an insult to the need for having institutions in place in a country.
There is a reason why the principle of ‘Separation of Powers’ exist in a democratic government; it is to protect abuse of power and influence by the more influential executive arm or the other arms of government. The executive arm of government cannot regulate either the legislature or the judiciary. No executive government should be that powerful, else a dictatorship would be the order of the day.
Now that the trial of Walter Onnoghen has been adjourned until 22nd January so that he could be properly served the court papers which will summon him to the tribunal, the people observe still how desperate the cabal is in trying to remove any obstacle in the path of perpetuating their reign.
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