Judiciary: The Politics Of CCB Trial Of CJN

By Our Reporters

On Monday, January 14, 2019, the Code of conduct Bureau, CCB, in keeping with its promise to dock Walter Kanu Onnoghen, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, and the Cross river state born Chief Justice of Nigeria,  on account of a  petition by Dennis Aghaya,  Executive Secretary of  an Abuja based Anti-Corruption Data Based Initiative and Research kept its word. Aghaya had petitioned the CCB over the CJN of non declaration of  assets and operating  domiciliary Accounts as a Civil Servant .

The CCB Court presided over by Dr. Muhammed Isah, the Chairman  and supported by two other members of the Bureau was filled to capacity  because of the Caliber of person involved. Isah and his two Bureau members may have expected to start the proceedings which was scheduled at about 10 am but were forced to adjourn sitting because of the superior argument of the defense Lawyers to Tuesday, January 22, 2019.    

Walter Onnoghen: Chief Jutice Of Nigeria Trial Court Room

The defense team , going by Channels Television reports included over 40 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN. Given the importance attached to the trial by the Nigeria Bar Association, the video clips of the trial shows that  Onnoghen, the CJN,  was not present  at the Isah led Court as some notable SANs in the defense team of the Onnoghen, the CJN, were already  seated  in the Court room awaiting  the commencement of the much talked about trial.

 They are Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney General  of the Federation and minister of Justice, Wole Olanipekun, Chiefs Chris Uche, Adegboyega Awomolo   among others.  Aliyu Umar,  was said to be the only SAN, on the side of the prosecution, an indication that the government may have lost the case on arrival. The  adjournment may have given both the defense and prosecution Lawyers to go back to the drawing board to fine-tune their line arguments against the next sitting.   

The action of the CCB against  the CJN, may have been seen as part of the ethnic cleansing of President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress , APC, government. This may have forced Emmanuel Udom,Prof. Bedict Ayande, Nyesom Wike, Seriake Dickson and Ifeanyi Okowa, the People Democratic , PDP,  South- South governors of Akwa Ibom, Cross river,  Rivers and Bayelsa respectively and Delta states to have kicked against it.

 Godwin Obaseki , governor of Edo state, who ought to have  been at the meeting ,may not have attended  as a governor elected under the platform of the APC  for fear of been seen as working with the Opposition PDP governors to oppose the CCB planned moves to put the country’s CJN on trial.

The governors who rose from a meeting on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Abuja, were said to have thrown their weight behind the CJN, asking him to” ignore the CCB invitation to Court for trial over the alleged abuse of office”. This may have informed the reason why the CJN was not in the CCB Isah led CCB Court on Monday, January 14, 2019, for  commencement of the trial.

The South-South governors who were worried over the CCB action against the CJN, had cited the unceremonious  removal  of Mathew  Seiyefa, a former Bayelsa state born acting Director General , Department of State Security, DSS, by the Buhari, fueling speculation that the President  do not want  to have  officials he could not control to be in his government.

 The governors  who could not hide their feeling, said the CCB plot , which had the backing of the Presidency further  ”reinforces  the perception  that the Buhari  Administration has  no regard for the sentiments of Nigerians, particular , the people of the Niger Delta and the Rule of Law”.

The aggrieved  governors, noted the lapses in the  CJN trial. They argued that the ”legal procedures  for investigation allegation of abuse of office  against judicial officials were not followed  in the Onnoghen case”, and  accused  the Buhari led Executive arm of government of targeting other arms of government  to render them powerless that they would not be able challenge his unpopular policies.

The governors who blasted the Katsina state born Nigerian President  said the move by the CCB  at the instance of the Presidency to try the CJN , a Cross riverian  described the move as ”selective  of the ”south-south story  of endless marginalisation  and intimidation”.

They were said to have had the backing of Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice president and Presidential Candidate  of the PDP, which  may have politicised the  CJN trial as the PDP has turned the heat on the Katsina state born president  and his kitchen cabinet to do a rethink and retrace their step on the trial of the country’s Chief Law interpreter and Head of the Judiciary.

Recall, that what is happening in Nigeria now may not be different  from what happened in Uganda during the regime of late President Idi Amin where the Judiciary was muscled up by him and a Chief Justice allegedly killed for failing to do his biddings over a trial of an American Journalist which he had an interest.

 Let us hope that the  CJN trial will not degenerate to Constitutional crisis that could lead to a breakdown of Law and Order in the country. There are fears that Paul Usoro, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN,and President, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, may withdraw his members from going to Court in protest over the” assault , intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by the government”.  

The Association’s  major worry was that” the petition  that triggered the CCB action  was on its face  received  by the Bureau  on Thursday , January 10, 2019, and the charge was promptly drafted  and was dated the following day, Friday, January 11, 2019”, thus giving the CCB  a record  24 hours  for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said charge and ancillary processes”

The Association which had described it as a” naked show of power  and force by agencies of government ” may have prepared the mind of members to prepare for war with the government until the principle of Separation of Powers as enshrined in the Constitution  is respected by Buhari and the  agencies of government.

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