Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is the head of Nigeria’s judiciary.
By Evelyn Okakwu and Samuel Ogundipe
The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday adjourned until January 22 the next hearing in the trial of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen for alleged false asset declaration.
Mr Onnoghen faces six counts of failing to disclose many bank accounts linked to him as a judge on the Supreme Court, which he had allegedly used to save millions in local and foreign currency.
At the opening hearing today, Mr Onnoghen was absent, but he had a team of 47 senior lawyers, led by Wole Olanipekun, who represented him.
Five out of six South-South governors also joined opposition voices to prevail on Mr Onnoghen not to appear before the tribunal.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Onnoghen’s absence was in compliance with the advice, which came amidst allegations that the proceeding was vindictive and anti-democratic.
After initial disagreement about whether or not Mr Onnoghen must appear to be docked before the court, between prosecution and defence teams, the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, said the top judge must appear for trial.
The defence team is challenging the jurisdiction of the case.
The matter, which opened at 10:05 a.m. was adjourned at 11:09 a.m., lasting roughly an hour.
Mr Umar said he would hear the application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the corruption case together with the docking of Mr Onnoghen at the adjourned date of January 22, Tuesday.
Mr Olanipekun argued on behalf of Mr Onnoghen that the top jurist had not been previously investigated and indicted by the National Judicial Council as required by law.
The charges against Mr Onnoghen emanated from a petition submitted to the Code of Conduct Tribunal by a politician of the ruling All Progressives Congress, who also served as a media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari about 10 years ago.