By Nwangwu Uba
President Muhammadu Buhari, of the ruling All Progressive Congress,, APC, appears to have heaved a sigh of relief over the conviction of suspended Walter Onnnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on allegations over alleged false declaration of Assets.
The allegations may have been strengthened by the alleged report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which was said to have been submitted to the Katsina state born Nigerian President on January 30, 2019, showing that the embattled CJN, had breached the law as a public officer. A Statement from the Presidency through Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, on Media and Publicity, thro barely hours after the Cross River state born embattled CJN, was Convicted speaks volume.
Shehu, said the ”outcome of the Tribunal trial of the suspended CJN, has demonstrated clearly that ” the law is no respecter of persons, titles , social or political connection”. The Preesidency described the landmark Judgment of the Tribunal as a ” major victory for the Anti-Corruption policy of the Buhari Administration’. It may not have made any reference to the embattle CJN, rejection and Appeal Notice already filed against the Judgment in an Abuja Court, an indication that they were awaiting for the Tribunal to make the earth shaking pronouncement.
Sources revealed that the President’s happiness over the outcome of the case is not unconnected with the fact that if Onnoghen was acquitted, it would watered the believed by many Nigerians sympathetic to the former CJN that he was been persecuted and the fear that he would have seek redress in Court to claim damages.
The Convicted CJN who was not surprised about the outcome of the Judgment had earlier accused Danladi Umar, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN , and Chairman, CCT, of being bias , in the case, noting that there is no way he could get favourable Judgment .
But Robert Clark, SAN, thinks differently. The legal luminary reportedly said that the Buhari led government should be ”given credit for prosecuting the suspended CJN at the CCT. He alluded in a recent interviews with Channels Television that the ”government knew what they were doing before they dragged him to the Tribunal. He noted that the petition by the EFCC, a copy of which was said to have been handed over to him last February which was” enough reason to resign” but he refused to read the handwriting on the wall until he was finally convicted by the CCT.
Note that the President has never found it convenient working with the suspended CJN, who had earlier resigned before his conviction Thursday April 18, 2019. The Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have opened up to then CJN, when he visited him in the Villa, upon his return from his oversea treatment last year April, he told him at a closed door meeting that the anti- corruption war was losing steam
Political watchers believe that the expression was clearly a loss of Confidence on Onnoghen as Head of the country’s Judiciary . The events between April 2018 and August 2018, around him speaks volume. Sources told The Value News that the President reduced his regular interaction with him . This may have been made possible because of the feelers coming out from the EFCC investigation on him which had started before he was appointed the country ‘s acting CJN in 2016 and subsequent Confirmation in 2017.
insiders disclosed that Buhari could not have approved his appointment to Head the Judiciary but for the intervention of Yemi Osibanjo, the Vice President, whose views are well respected in the Presidency because of his legal background. He may have given him the appoint but put him under close watch , using the EFCC, to expose him.
The source disclosed that Onnoghen made several attempts to convince the Present that Judiciary and The Executive are on the same page in the anti-corruption war but that was how far he could go. The embattled CJN, may have known that his days are numbered as Head of the Judiciary when he angrily told Journalists when he came out from the Villa that April that ”there are three arms of government and these three arms Constitute the government” , noting that the ” government is not only the executive”. Reacting to the Presidency allegations, based on feelers from the EFCC, that the Judiciary was not doing enough to ensure speedy trial of Corruption cases, Onnoghen had dismissed it as untrue.
The suspended CJN may have been Convicted by CCT, an agency of the state, but Political Observers , said he has never failed in telling the President anytime they have opportunity of discussing that those thinking that the ”Judiciary was the culprit in the delay process of the trial corrupt cases in the Court are not ”telling the whole truth including officials of the EFCC”. He has consistently maintained that ”it was not the Judiciary that would arrest suspects before looking for evidence to prosecute them in Court’.
An aggrieved Onnoghen who may not have hidden his feeling from the onset on how he intends to run the country’s Judiciary that , ” it was not the Judiciary that would go into investigations of Corrupt charges against any person on the list of the Commission”.
There is no gainsaying the fact that he may have stepped on toes that they have to dig into his financial transactions to prove to him that he was corrupt and therefore, not fit to hold the exalted office of the CJN.