The embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He filed the notice of appeal on sixteen grounds on which he wants the appellate court to upturn his conviction.
Starnews had reported yesterday that Onnoghen was declared guilty of a six-count charge brought against him by the Federal Government.
The Tribunal convicted him by removing him from office as Chief Justice of Nigeria, as Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), and as Chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
The Tribunal also said Onnoghen should forfeit the money in his five bank domiciliary accounts that were not declared to the Nigerian Government because they were acquired illegally, and as well barred him from holding public office for the next 10 years.
But in his appeal, Onnoghen rejected the judgement and asked the appellate court to set it aside.
Read below his sixteen grounds of appeal:
Onnoghen, started his argument by saying that he was a judicial officer as at the time those charges were filed against him and being a judicial officer, he was therefore not subjected to the jurisdiction of the lower tribunal. He insisted that the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to try him or any judicial official, claiming he could only be tried by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
According to him:
“0n the authority of Nganiiwa v. FRN (2018) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1609) 30: at 340. 341 only the National Judicial Council has the power to discipline the Appellant for misconduct and not the lower tribunal.
“The lower tribunal had in the case of FRN V. Sylvester Nwali Nguta in charge No: CCT/ABJ/01/2017 delivered on 9th January, 2018, affirmed the position of the Court in FRN Nganjiwa v. FRN and dismissed the charges and acquitted and discharged Justice Ngwuta being a Judicial Officer subject only to the discipline of the National Judicial C0uncil.
“The lower tribunal has no iurisdittion over servng judicial officers such as the appellant, save the National Judicial Council.
“The Motion on Notice dated 14th January, 2019, challenging iurisdiction ought to be granted in all material particular as it purports to save the lower tribunal of needless futile exercise.
“The lower tribunal erred In law when it dismissed the Appellant’s Application seeking the chairman to recuse himself from further proceedings on the ground of real likelihood of bias and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice
“Once an allegation of real likelihood of the bias Is raised, the Court or tribunal will have nothing more to say except to watch its hands from further proceedings in the matter.
“The Appellant has alleged that the chairman of the lower tribunal is biased towards him as a result of open remarks in the tribunal as well as the manner in which the proceedings was being conducted”.
” The Appellant only stated that he did not declare in 2009 as required because he forgot. The evidence of and exhibit tendered has affirmed the statement of the appellant that he forgot to make a declaration in 2009 but did In 2010 when he remembered, showing there was a declaration after all, contrary to count one of the charge.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when It held that the evidence of DW-I, did not create reasonable doubt on the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that the Appellant did not make declaration of assets since 2005 and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the Appellant is guilty of counts 2-6 of the charge in view of the fact that the Appellant made an admission that he did not declare the Standard Chattered Bank Account Numbers in the 2014 declaration and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“The Appellant’s statement that he did not declare the Account numbers in the Standard Chartered Bank in the 2014 Declaration because he never believed the account numbers were opened, does not amount to an admission in law that he made false statements as indicated in counts 2-6.
“The declaration for 2014 and 2016 were all made the same day being 16th December, 2016, but the disparity was that whereas the 2016 declaration had the account numbers, in Standard Chartered Bank, that of 2014 did not have but in any event, the said account numbers were declared.
“The Account numbers were the ones declared by the Appellant himself in the 2016 declaration and was not found out from any other source.
“The Appellant did not make any false statement or declaration by the omission to state the account numbers in the 2014 declaration.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the Appellant made false statement by the omission to declare the Account numbers in Standard Chartered Bank in 2014 declaration the same way he did in the 2016 declaration and held counts 2-6 to be proved and thus occasioned miscarriage of justice.
“Section 15 (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act is very clear and unambiguous when it provides that there must be verification. The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that count one of the charge is valid and proceeded to convict the Appellant upon it.
“The Honourable Tribunal erred In law when it tried and convicted the Defendant/Appellant for failure to declare and submit assets declaration Forms, between 2005 and 2016, which alleged offence ls unknown to law; and in total violation of Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution”, Onnoghen added in the appeal he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN.
Starnews reports that Mr Okon Nkanu Efut, Onnoghen’s lead counsel, reacted to the judgment by describing it as “unconstitutional and out of order”.
According to Okon:
“The journey has ended today because everything that has a beginning must have an end. So this day, we have heard that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has been convicted and sentenced,” Efut had said.
“The conviction is out of order, it is unconstitutional. It is a breach of fair hearing because before this day, on the January 23, the same judgement had been passed before now, removing the CJN without a fair hearing. So it was a fait accompli, it was premeditated gas judgment had been passed before today.
“So today’s judgement is just a formality and we hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the constitution of Nigeria, it has breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“It has not only not been able to pass judgement, it has convicted for an offence that was never charged and this is an erosion of the fundamental principles of our constitution. Until some questions are answered, for instance, why is it that the due course of justice was not allowed to flow? Why was judgement passed on January 23 before today, removing the CJN?
“Why is it that today, even after the CJN had tendered his notice of voluntary retirement and the NJC has taken a position, why is it that the tribunal has gone ahead to pass a judgement in total disregard of the independence of the NJC, in total disregard of the powers of the Senate in this matter?
“We hold a view that the tribunal in reversing itself in the case of Ngwuta, has breached the principle that hold us together. This is a sad day in our nation’s democracy and we know that all is not over with this matter. The wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely. This is not a matter that will end here.
“We shall avail ourselves of all the processes, the hierarchy of the judiciary and we know that the judiciary will redeem itself even though seriously battered and bruised. The judiciary will do justice. Justice has not been done today, but it will surely be done tomorrow. If not by the tribunal, but by our God. Justice will be done by our God.”