By Uche Mbah
With all issues pertaining to the Onnoghen saga converging back on the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Supreme Court, feelers from informed quarters indicate that both Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, and the Buhari appointed Acting CJN, Mohamed Tanko, may end up as losers. The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Dangiwa Umar, may also suffer the same fate end in this game of Russian Roulette.
Recall that the NJC sat Tuesday January, 29, and ruled that both the CJ Onnoghen, Acting CJN appointed Mohamed, must answer to charges against them within one week. Normally, petitionees are given fourteen days to answer to the charges against them, but the NJC said that the time frame had to be shortened because of the urgency of the situation.
During the sitting, Tanko and Onnoghen, who are both members of the NJC, rescued themselves.
Cabbotage Law expert and Senior Advocate Of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, had petitioned NJC against Tanko, alleging that Tanko allowed himself to be used by the Executive arm of the government to breach the constitution while government accused Onnoghen of fraud in his Assets Declaration form. Agbakoba also petitioned the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA against the continued trial of Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, citing the fact that it is usurping the functions of the NJC, thereby creating a constitutional crisis.
“Mr Umar’s misconduct has created a constitutional crisis and brought great embarrassment to the Legal profession,” he said. He also prayed the NBA to strike Umar’s name out of the list of Legal Practitioners in the Country.
Umar has since discontinued the case, citing Appeal Court ruling as reason.
But Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, a human rights organization, has requested for a copy of Umar’s Asset declaration form, using the freedom of Information Law. But the Code of Conduct Bureau declined, insisting his asset declaration is his private property. This has fuelled in some quarters that he .may not not have declared his assets.
The NJC trial may have two possible precautions. First, Tanko may go, if he cannot defend the allegation against him. The NJC may recommend his sack to the presidency. Whether the Presidency will approve is another issue. But if they sanction Onnoghen, they will have to recommend to the Senate which would need a two-third majority to recommend his sack to the President.
In this election frenzy, the Senate is unlikely to do that, since they want to resume after the January 16 elections. It means they have to wait for the incoming Senate to handle the case. But they are unlikely to recommend his sack, according to those in the know. So Onnoghen may still remain as the CJN.