By Emmanuel Ogbeche
The country was thrown into frenzy earlier in the day over a statement by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on moves to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, for non-declaration of assets.
The statement signed by the Head, Press & Public Relations, CCT, Ibraheem Al-Hassan, gave indication that the CJN is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, January 14, on a six-count criminal charge bordering on non-declaration of his assets.
Since the announcement, tempers have flared. While there are those that have expressed angst at the moves by the federal government, they are those who have applauded the anticipated arraignment.
Even journalists have been caught in the fray, depending on one’s political persuasion rather than on what the law says.
Let me say this unequivocally, though I’m not a lawyer, that the move is already a checkmate against the FG if the law matters in this country.
Here is why!
Even the CCT knows that going by the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, in which the appellate court held, in a December 2017 judgment, that by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution, only the National Judicial Council is vested with the powers to try judicial officers for any misconduct while in office.
It was for this reason that the CCT agreed with the argument of Justice Ngwuta that as a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, he could not be tried in any court or tribunal except after he had been subjected to the investigatory and disciplinary processes of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
In case you have forgotten, the federal government on March 21, 2017, charged Justice Sylvester Ngwuta on eight counts for allegedly failing to declare some of his assets.
He was also accused by the prosecution of possessing 28 plots of land, which he allegedly refused to declare to the CCB between June 2, 2011, and July 19, 2016.
There are other cases to show that this red herring is a no brainer.
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