The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, has ordered key security agencies in the country to arrest the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and produce him for trial on Friday.
The Danladi Umar-led panel tribunal specifically directed the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, to execute the arrest warrant to ensure that Justice Onnoghen was brought before it on the adjourned date.
The order followed an application the Federal Government made for a bench warrant to be issued against the suspended CJN.
The application is coming after Justice Onnoghen failed to appear before the tribunal to enter his plea to the six-count charge pending against him.
Justice Onnoghen who was accused of failing to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, as well as operated foreign bank accounts in contravention of the code of conduct for public officials, had on three previous dates, refused to appear before the CCT for arraignment.
At the resumed proceeding, government lawyer, Aliyu Umar, relied on section 6 (1) of the CCT Practice Direction and section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, to apply for a bench warrant against the defendant.
“May I draw your attention and the honorable members to the fact that the defendant is not in court today.
“I hereby humbly apply for a warrant of arrest against the defendant”, Umar stated.
However, counsel to the embattled CJN, Chief Adegboyega Awolowo, SAN, urged the tribunal to refuse the application and proceed with hearing Onnoghen’s motion challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT and legal competence of the charge against him.
Mr Awomolo further relied on section 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to argue that the tribunal ought to firstly determine the issue of its integrity and impartiality, before proceeding with the trial.
Besides, he argued that the presence of the defendant was not mandatory during hearing of an objection to the charge, adding that the Danladi Umar led tribunal earlier adjourned to hear all the pending applications.
“The defendant is entitled to fair trial and fair hearing and the constitution has mandated that he must be afforded every facility to establish his innocence.
“A criminal trial is a serious matter that affects the liberty of a citizen.
“The application that the tribunal should issue a bench warrant is persecuting by the prosecution. The tribunal is urged to preserve the defendant’s rights,” Mr Awomolo pleaded.