The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Monday adjourned proceedings involving the charges of non-declaration of assets preferred against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, till January 22.
The three-man panel led by Danladi Umar ruled that the tribunal would hear Onnoghen’s motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal at the next proceedings.
The adjournment came on the heels of the admission of Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), the lead prosecuting counsel, that Onnoghen was improperly served with the charges and the summons. He conceded that the CJN was not personally served with the charges and the court’s summons, as required by the law and requested the tribunal to direct a fresh service on the CJN. This followed the observation of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Onnoghen’s leading defence lawyer that from the account given by the court official earlier in the proceedings, the CJN was not served with the charges and and summons personally, but through his aide.
Olanipekun insisted that the law requires that the defendant be served personally. But the prosecuting lawyer said the law only requires the defendant to be aware of the pending charges, and that it was the CJN’s choice to ask his aide to receive the charges and summons on his behalf.
Even though Onnoghen was absent from the Monday’s proceedings, he was represented by a.
Upon an inquiry by the tribunal chairman about Onnoghen’s absence from court, said the CJN needed not to be present, having filed a motion to challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Olanipekun said he and other defence lawyers only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
But after arguments from both sides, which lasted for almost an hour, the prosecuting counsel conceded that the service of the charges and the summons ought to have been personally served on Onnoghen.
“By what the registrar has said, although the defendant was the one who directed his personal assistant to accept service on his behalf and what the law says is that he must be personally served.
“We agree that that the service should be properly done. The processes should be served personally on him.
“If, after the service is done, and the defendant is not present, we can then argue whether or not he needs to be present on the grounds that he has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court,” he said.
He, therefore, requested the three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar to direct a fresh service on the CJN.
Onnoghen was absent from the Monday’s proceedings. But he was ably represented by a high-power defence team led by Olanipekun, which had some Senior Advocates of Nigeria including Chief Chris Uche, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, Sebastine Hon, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, Kehinde Ogunwumiju and Akinlolu Kehinde as part of it.
When the tribunal chairman about Onnoghen’s absence from court, Olanipekun said that Onnoghen needed not to be present having filed a motion to challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction. He said the CJN’s defence team only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Olanipekun insisted that the law requires that the defendant be personally served.