A senior lawyer in the FCT, Mr. Realwan Okpanachi, says the charges against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, are not tenable.
Okpanachi said his contention was based on the provisions of sections 292(1a)(i) and 292(1b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
He made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.
The lawyer also made reference to the subsisting decision of the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa vs FRN (2017) LPELR-43391 case.
Newsmen recalls that Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa had appealed the decision of the High Court of Lagos State in 2017, challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain and determine the instant information against her.
Nganjiwa was, by a 14-count information, charged for offences ranging from unlawful enrichment by a public officer to making false information.
Newsmen also recalls that the Code of Conduct Bureau had filed a six-count criminal charge bordering on alleged refusal to declare assets and operating foreign bank accounts, against the CJN.
Okpanachi said that the Code of Conduct Tribunal could have the jurisdiction to try the CJN based on the fact that he was neither above the law, nor entitled to immunity.
“But the jurisdiction of the tribunal has not been effectively activated because the conditions for its innovation, as laid down in the above court of Appeal decision, have not been satisfied.
“Inasmuch as I do not agree with the said decision, it is a binding and subsisting decision which must be respected by every person and authority,’’ Okpanachi said.
He maintained that the issue at stake was not about the merit of the charges against the CJN, but about the rule of law.
“That is, the binding of the subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal, stating unequivocally that a serving judicial officer cannot be arraigned or tried in any court for a criminal offence.
“Not until such officer has been investigated, dismissed or recommended for trial by the National Judicial Council,’’ the lawyer said.
He further said that the lawyers who filed the charges did so in total ignorance for the constitutional provisions and the Court of Appeal judgment in Nganjiwa’s case.
“In view of the above, I humbly advise the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Attorney General of the Federation to withdraw the charges and apologise for their error of judgment,’’ Okpanachi said.