Justice Walter Onnoghen, sacked yesterday as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) upon his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), has appealed the tribunal’s decision.
In a notice of appeal filed at the Registry of the CCT, shortly after the judgment, Onnoghen raised 16 grounds on which he faulted the decision and urged the Court of Appeal to set it aside and discharge and acquit him.
The appellant is urging the Court of Appeal to hold that the CCT lacked the jurisdiction to hear the charge and that the tribunal ought to have recused itself from the trial.
He also prayed the tribunal to set aside all the orders made by the tribunal in the judgment, including that for assets forfeiture.
The appellant argued, among others, that the tribunal erred in law when it refused to abide by existing judicial precedents in refusing his applications, challenging its jurisdiction and asking it to recuse itself.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it refused to recuse itself from the proceedings in view of the open declaration by the Chairman of the tribunal that he is only accountable to the President, who appointed him and nobody else, because he is not a judicial officer and thus, occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the appellant confessed to the charges framed by admission and used that as a basis to hold that the appellant did not declare his assets from the year 2005 when he became a justice of the Supreme Court and thus occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the appellant is guilty of counts 2 – 6 of the charge in view of the fact that the appellant made an admission that he did not declare the Standard Chartered Bank account numbers in the 2014.
“The lower tribunal erred in law when it held that the appellant made false statement by the omission to declare the account numbers in Standard Chartered Bank in 2014 declaration, the same way he did in the 2016 declaration and held counts 2 – 6 to be proved.”
Okon Nkanu Efut, who led Onnoghen’s legal team, said: “The journey has ended today because everything that has a beginning must have an end. So this day, we have heard that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has been convicted and sentenced.
“The conviction is out of order; it is unconstitutional. It is a breach of fair hearing because before this day, on the January 23, the same judgement had been passed before now, removing the CJN without a fair hearing.
“So, it was a fait accompli, it was premeditated that judgment had been passed before today.
“So, today’s judgement is just a formality and we hold the view that the tribunal has not only breached the constitution of Nigeria, it has breached the fundamental principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“It has not only not been able to pass judgement, it has convicted for an offence that was never charged and this is an erosion of the fundamental principles of our constitution.
“Until some questions are answered, for instance, why is it that the due course of justice was not allowed to flow? Why was judgement passed on January 23 before today, removing the CJN?”