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 Code of Conduct Bureau has concluded plans to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, for false declaration of assets on Monday.
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.
The statement read in part, “The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation, and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.
“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.
“In Nganjiwa v FRN (supra), the Court of Appeal made reference to Rule 3 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of February 2016 (“Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”) and held that the said Rule 3 “makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the Law”.
“The provisions in regard to assets declaration as they apply to all public officers including the CJN are contained in both the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991, the enabling law that establishes both the Code of
“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