As the plot to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Samuel Onnoghen thickens, LeadersNG has exclusively gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari was the one who sanctioned the move.The President LeadersNG learned was briefed by the Campaign Director-General, Rotimi Amaechi on the need to have a plan B should the opposition People’s Democratic Party candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar wins the upcoming presidential elections. The Plan B LeadersNG understands is on the need to cripple the Judiciary, blackmail some Supreme Court Justices and send fears in the minds of judges ahead of the post elections tribunal. The Buhari Campaign DG, Former Rivers State Governor and current minister of Transport had in the past been at loggerheads with some Supreme Court Justices who accused the Rivers State born politician of seeking to manipulate a court judgement in his Favour. The Two Supreme Court Judges, Messrs Sylvester Ungwuta, and Justice Inyang Okoro accused Mr. Amaechi of attempting to manipulate them to rule in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress in an election dispute. You would recall that Justices Okoro and Ungwuta were among the seven judges arrested in 2016 over corruption allegations by the officers and men of the Department for State Security Service. In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr. Ungwuta narrated how he was arrested by SSS officials. The Judge accused the agency of “planting huge sums of money” in his house when it was searched. Apart from accusing Mr. Amaechi of plotting to manipulate him to rule in favour of the APC in the Ekiti election dispute, Mr. Ungwuta also accused the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, of also seeking his help to manipulate an election hearing. These allegations were later denied by both ministers. Consequently, LeadersNG through a source at the Presidency says, Mr. Amaechi sought for the permission of the President through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari who called the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN for his legal advise on how to go about the petition filed against the CJN by the former aide to the President. Malami, LeadersNG gathered, later called the CCT chairman to quickly make an arrangement for the arraignment of Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria on allegations of non-declaration of Assets. The trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen will on Monday, January 14, 2019 commence at the CCT courtroom, situated along Jabi Daki Biyu of Abuja. The three-man panel will be led by Justice Danladi Y. Umar. “The application was filed on Friday by the operatives of the CCB, dated January 11, 2019, and signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman and Fatima Danjuma Ali (Esq), containing six-count charges all borders on non-declaration of assets January 12, 2019.” The planned arraignment of Onnoghen, who is the Chairman, National Judicial Commission, followed a petition by a civil society group, Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative. Meanwhile, The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has condemned the planned arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen Onnoghen, on charges of non-declaration of assets as an assault on the judiciary. The NBA, in a statement by its President, Paul Usoro, SAN, said the media trial of the CJN does not follow the rule of law and should be stopped. The NBA, however, decried the speed at which charges were preferred against the CJN after the petition by a civil society group, Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative. In a statement made available to Newsmen, the NBA says, “In Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him. “As the Court pointed out, these requirements of the law are anchored on the overriding principles of separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and on the need to preserve, promote and protect the independence of the judiciary. “Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government. “The fidelity which judicial officers, therefore, owe “to the Constitution and the Law” pursuant to Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers encompasses compliance with the provisions relating to assets declarations as contained in the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. “Any infraction in that regard by a judicial officer, as the Court of Appeal rightly held, constitutes misconduct by the judicial officer and becomes the subject matter for discipline by the NJC as a condition precedent to any possible prosecution of the judicial officer by any of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies. “Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination? “The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes! “If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT. “We still wonder why the FGN choose to deviate from the laid down and explicit provisions of the law as expounded in Nganjiwa v FRN (supra). Could it be that it was misadvised? Or is this a naked show of power and force by agencies of the FGN? And why embark on the media trial of the CJN?
“This, unfortunately, is a predilection of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies with the possible exception of the Federal Ministry of Justice. As the NBA pointed out in its International Anti-Corruption Day Statement that was issued on 09 December 2018 “media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices . . . amount to corruption itself. “Indeed, those orchestrated media trials degrade and corrupt the justice administration system quite apart from the incalculable (but obviously intended) damage that it does to persons who may ultimately be discharged and acquitted. “In point of fact, it is corrupt practice to use as a license or hide under the cover of the fight against corruption to recklessly destroy the names, characters, and reputations of persons who have not been found guilty of corrupt practices by competent courts and who may ultimately be pronounced innocent of such charges.” Many prominent Nigerian Jurists and Civil Society Organisations have condemned the move by President Buhari’s led Federal Government to prosecute the CJN on trumped up charges.