Tola Akinmutimi, Abuja
After weeks of legal fireworks on whether or not his personal appearance was required before his trial would proceed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, appeared before the tribunal on Friday, and pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge levelled against him by the Federal Government.
The embattled CJN, whose trial has polarized the political landscape over the past two months mounted the dock at exactly 10:15am and asked the Danladi Umar-led tribunal to vacate the arrest warrant that was issued against him on Wednesday.
Shortly after his arraignment, the defence counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), applied for his client to be granted bail on self recognition. The application was granted by the CCT Chairman.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government FG had alleged, in the charge marked CCT/01/2019, that the suspended CJN who was suspended from office on January 25, failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law. He was also accused of operating several foreign bank accounts since 2011, contrary to section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Before his physical appearance today, Onnoghen had on four previous dates set for opening his case, declined to appear before the tribunal, contending that it lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the charge against him.
Following the suspended CJN’s refusal to appear before it, the tribunal was compelled last Wednesday to order his arrest by security agencies and produce him for trial.
Specifically, the tribunal chairman directed the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, to execute the arrest warrant.
But then, the order was not carried out as Onnoghen eventually turned up and appeared fore the tribunal to enter his plea to the charge.