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Hands off my case, Onnoghen tells CCT chair

In less than 24 hours after the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) insisted on his appearance before it, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (SAN),  Justice Walter Onnoghen, has asked its Chairman,  Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself from further participating in the hearing of his case on grounds of likelihood of bias.

In a Motion on Notice, the Applicant, Justice Onnoghen, premised his reasons on the grounds that the CCT chairman, going by what transpired at the tribunal, on Monday last week, had constructively convicted him without hearing him or formally arraigning him before the Tribunal.

Appart from that, Onnoghen maintained that the CCT chairman was a tainted arbiter in view of the bribery charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and is likely to enter a plea bargain in the charge so as to convict.

The Motion on Notice was brought pursuant to Rule 12(1) and (1A) of the revised Code of Conduct for judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2016, filed in the registry of the CCT on Monday.

Listed as counsel in the motion were Chris Uche (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), Okon Efut (SAN), Chief Ogwu Onoja (SAN), Noah Abdul and George Ibrahim.

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The suspended jurist further stated that Umar had authored and signed an Ex-parte Order directing an un-convincted man to step aside as the CJN on account of a charge not yet before him,  which is, in itself, a conviction prior to arraignment and plea/trial.

President Muhammad Buhari had on January 25 suspended Onnoghen and swore-in Tanko Muhammad as Acting CJN based on an Ex-parte Order granted by the CCT Chairman.

In his Grounds of Application, suspended Onnoghen stated that, “The Chairman, on January 23, 2019, entertained a Motion Ex-parte not moved by any known prosecutor bearing the same title, charge number and purported accused person/Defendant which substantially predetermined the guilt of the defendant without an arraignment.

“Consequent upon paragraphs IV above, the learned chairman (Hon. Danladi Umar) who purportedly moved, made and signed the Order has put himself in the position of the prosecutor, judge and jury to the clear prejudice and bias against the Defendant.

“The learned chairman of the CCT is a tainted arbiter by reason of a criminal charge at the instance of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for receiving money bribe in the sum of N10 million in charge No: CR/109/18 in FCT High Court by an organ under the supervision of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, incidentally the prosecutor and complainant in this matter, such that with such sword of Damocles hanging over him, and himself not likely to be a fair arbiter, but instead more likely to trade in the charges against him in quasi plea bargaining in the charge against him and enter summary conviction in this proceedings to please the prosecutor. ”