CJN Onnoghen finally docked, pleads not guilty to false asset declaration charges/ Onnoghen
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Friday,  pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge the Federal Government levelled against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. 
 
Onnoghen, who mounted the dock at exactly 10:15am, equally persuaded the Mr.  Danladi Umar led tribunal, to vacate the arrest warrant that was issued against him on Wednesday. 
 
The federal government had in the charge marked CCT/01/2019, alleged that Onnoghen failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law. 
 
He was accused of operating foreign bank accounts since 2011, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. 
 
Onnoghen, who was suspended from office on January 25 by President Muhammadu Buhari, had on four previous dates, declined to appear before the tribunal which he contended lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the charge against him. 
 
Consequently, the tribunal, ordered key security agencies in the country to arrest Onnoghen and produce him for trial. 
 
The tribunal specifically directed the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, to execute the arrest warrant. 
 
However, the order was not carried out as the suspended CJN, voluntarily appeared before the tribunal to enter his plea to the charge. 
 
Shortly after his arraignment, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, applied for his client to be granted bail on self recognizance. 
 
The application was accordingly granted by the CCT Chairman who then adjourned the trial until March 11.
 
The March 11 proceedings would be for the hearing of all pending applications by both the defence and the prosecution.
 
The pending applications include one by Onnoghen challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the charges.
 
Addressing newsmen after the proceedings on Friday, Onnoghen’s lead counsel, Uche said with the arraignment of the topmost judicial officer, “It is a very sad day for democracy, a very sad day for Nigeria.
 
“It is a struggle for the maintenance of the due process and it is a struggle for separation of powers.
 
“The CJN had to suffer the indignity of coming before this tribunal to take his plea.
 
“But we are happy that the world will now know the truth that there is more to this case.‎”
 
“The judiciary has experienced a setback for democracy and also for the people of the law when due process was not followed. 
 
"Someone will just  come from the blues and accuse a person of stealing and you expect him to be brought to the defendant box, and you also expect that person to bend his head to be slaughtered? NO," the senior advocate added.


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