By Uche Mbah
Amid confusion on whether the case against the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, will be suspended or not due to a High Court rulings, the Code of Conduct Tribunal convened again without the CJN appearing. His Lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, however, appeared for him with over forty Senior Lawyers and Forty two others.
It will be recalled that the last hearing of the case was on 14 January 2019, with the CJN absent. Since then, there has been three different court orders restraining the CCT from continuing with the case, but it appears that the courts were finding it difficult to personally serve the Chairman of CCT, Danladi Umar. In fact, the Industrial Court also restrained the CCT, and had to serve him using substituted means. Copies of the restraining order were seen pasted on the premises of the CCT.
Since the inception of the case, allegations of political undertones were rife from opposition parties, who see the trial as a means to break the ranks of the Judiciary to make them malleable to the ruling party during the expected legal fallout of the February 16th elections. It was alleged that they want to remove the CJN to install Justice Tanko Mohammed. Mohammed is a Sharia expert-he has a Phd in Sharia Law. The Presidency allegedly has preference to Tanko as Acting CJN.
But the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, has been dogged in their defense of the CJN. One of the suits filed restraining the CCT came from their ranks. In a press conference held in Abuja recently, they alleged that the Federal Government have issued orders to the CCT Chair to issue a warrant of arrest of the CJN if he fails to appear again for trial. According to them, the confirmation of the new Inspector General of Police is predicated on his issuing a warrant of arrest for the CJN. The Presidency has, however, denied the allegations.
The arraignment of the CJN has drawn national and International outrage. This Magazine reported that the South south Governors had expressed outrage against the act of his arraignment, which they see as persecution, and advised him not to honor the invitation. A new militant group also threatened to resume hostilities if the case goes ahead.
Last Saturday, the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria met on the issue as well as the court arraignment of the President Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmud. It appears that the Judiciary is under siege.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has also alleged persecution of the CJN in his recent treatise.According to him, as part of his self succession project, President Buhari is masterminding the intimidation of the Judiciary with the prosecution of the CJN.
Constitutionally, the CJN can only be removed by the two-third majority of the senate, which appears to be why they are putting pressures on him to resign.
Recently, the governor of Rivers state said the travails of the CJN has the fingerprints of the Minister of transport on it. Again, the minister has denied it, but rumors of selection of judges for election tribunals, as well as Appeal and Supreme Court justices who will handle election matters appear to be at the center of the crisis, according to CUPP sources.