The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has adjourned the arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen on the alleged false and non-assets declaration to January 22, following an argument by the defence counsel that he was not personally served with the charges and the court’s summons as required by the law to appear before the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman upon inquiry about Onnoghen’s absence from court, discovered from the defence team, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that the CJN needed not to be present having filed a motion to challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction, stressing that he and other defence lawyers only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
He also stated from the account given by the court official earlier in the proceedings, the CJN was not served with the charges and and summons personally, but through his aide, insisting that the law requires that the defendant be personally served.
Responding, the lead prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), who intially said the law only requires the defendant to be aware of the pending charges, and that it was the CJN’s choice to ask his aide to receive the charges and summons on his behalf, conceded that the service of the charges and the summons ought to have been personally served on Onnoghen.
“By what the registrar has said, although the defendant was the one who directed his personal assistant to accept service on his behalf and what the law says is that he must be personally served.
“We agree that that the service should be properly done. The processes should be served personally on him.
“If, after the service is done, and the defendant is not present, we can then argue whether or not he needs to be present on the grounds that he has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court.”
The three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar subsequently re-fixed his arraignment for January 22, same day it will hear a motion filed by the defence challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to entertain the suit filed against the CJN.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that though Onnoghen was absent from Monday’s proceedings at the tribunal, he was represented by 45 Senior Advocates of Nigeria(SANs) and 55 senior lawyers.