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Embattled CJN, Onnoghen Appeals Conviction by CCT |The Republican News

Walter-Buhari
 
by Evelyn Okakwu
 
 
 
The embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed the judgement delivered by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in his case of alleged false asset declaration.
 
Mr Onnoghen was convicted by the CCT, led by Danladi Umar on Thursday.
 
The tribunal which ruled that it had jurisdiction in the matter, also dismissed another application by the defence which suggested that Mr Umar should remove himself for alleged bias.
 
According to Mr Umar, the tribunal is a body empowered by section 158 (1) of the constitution to perform its duty “without external interference of bodies like the NJC.”
 
The section it relied on provides for the independence of the CCT and states that it “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.”
 
 
Mr Umar ruled that the relationship between the tribunal and the presidency “was purely administrative” in nature and insufficient for the defence to accuse him of bias.
 
According to the CCT chairman, “all judges of superior courts are appointed by the president, Muhammadu Buhari, on the recommendation of the NJC.”
 
The CCT chairman added that the appointment of the said judges is not be regarded “as a reason for them to act according to the whims of the president”.
 
 
“It is to be noted that without the chairman, there is no CCT,” Mr Umar added
 
The tribunal had also dismissed the request against its jurisdiction after submitting that Mr Onnoghen was being tried “as a public officer and not as a judicial officer.”
 
 
 
Mr Umar also said that the “CCT had powers to overrule him where it finds that it has taken a decision that was wrongly reached.”
 
Subsequently, the tribunal overruled its earlier decision which freed another Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, of a similar allegation.
 
Precedent
 
Mr Ngwuta was one of seven judges whose houses had been raided by the State Security Service in October 2016, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s government accused them of fraud.
 
He was arraigned on false asset charges at the tribunal by the CCT. But the tribunal, also chaired by Mr Umar suspended the case following a decision of a Court of Appeal in a related matter.
 
The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal had decided during the trial of another judge, Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, that the only body responsible for the indictment of a serving judicial officer was the NJC.
 
That decision had forced the suspension of the trial of Mr Ngwuta at the tribunal.
 
However, on Thursday, Mr Umar regarded the decision on Mr Ngwuta as a wrong judgement and “overruled himself.”
 
After dismissing the various applications, Mr Umar ruled in his judgement that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Onnoghen was involved in the alleged breach of the CCT act and found him guilty of same.
 
‘Three major punishments’
 
Mr Umar invoked section 23 of the act which allowed the tribunal to issue three major punishments to persons found guilty of such allegations.
 
The provision demands that a convicted person shall be made to vacate his office for a period, not exceeding 10 years. It also allows the tribunal to order that the convict shall forfeit assets found to have been acquired fraudulently.
 
 
Not satisfied
 
But in an appeal to the appellate court, Mr Onnoghen has insisted that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that it had jurisdiction in the matter.
 
According to Mr Onnoghen, he was arraigned at the time when he was still a serving judicial officer, therefore the tribunal lacked powers to entertain the allegations against him.
 
Although Mr Umar overruled the judgement in Mr Ngwuta’s case, Mr Onnoghen cited the January 2018 decision of the CCT which freed Mr Ngwuta as the reason for the tribunal to have ruled against its jurisdiction.
 
Mr Onnoghen also submitted in his request that the tribunal erred in law when it dismissed the application challenging its jurisdiction.
 
“Once an allegation of real likelihood of the bias is raised, the Court or tribunal will have nothing more to say except to wash its hands from further proceedings in the matter,” Mr Onnoghen said in his appeal.
 
The embattled CJN also argued that the failure of Mr Umar to recuse himself vindicated the defence in their submission that Mr Umar was a “person of interest.”
 
Mr Onnoghen said it was against the principle of natural justice for Mr Umar to sit in judgement of his own case.
 
He also argued that there was no way the tribunal could have been fair since the prosecution and the tribunal are both bodies working under the instructions of the executive arm of government.
 
Mr Onnoghen also submitted that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that he confessed to having committed the allegations against him.
 
According to Mr Onnoghen, his statement was only meant to clarify the issues raised in the allegations. Mr Onnoghen said he never admitted to not declaring his assets in 2005, as suggested by the charge.
 
“The Appellant did not admit the fact of non-declaration of Assets from the year 2005 as the Justice of the Supreme Court.
 
“The Appellant only stated that he did not declare in 2009 as required because he forgot and did the declaration immediately it realised same.
 
“By the evidence of DWI (Defence Witness:1) and exhibit DW2 tendered, it has affirmed the statement of the appellant that he forgot to make a declaration in 2009 but did in 2010 when he remembered showing there was a declaration after all contrary to count one of the charges,” Mr Onnoghen said.
 
Mr Onnoghen also argued that the tribunal erred in law when it ruled that the evidence of the first defendant’s witness did not cast doubts on the submissions of the prosecution in the first count.
 
According to Mr Onnoghen in his appeal, the first defendant’s witness was able to refute the claims of non-declaration of an asset from 2005. “The doubt created by DWI’s evidence no matter how minute ought to be resolved in favour of the Appellant.”
 
Mr Onnoghen also submitted that his statement suggesting that he failed to include the five accounts in the declaration forms for 2014 because he believed they were not functioning, “does not amount to an admission of guilt.”
 
Mr Onnoghen explained that the forms for 2014 and that of 2016 were both filed the same day. He added that the declaration form for 2016 had all the accounts in it. According to him, the prosecution should not have accused him of false declaration since both forms were filed by him.
 
Mr Onnoghen said the submissions by the prosecution that he made a false declaration, based on the omission of certain details is not backed by the CCT Act. He also argued that the standard procedure for the verification of his forms was not complied with by the prosecution.
 
‘Confiscation of assets illegal’
 
Mr Onnoghen also challenged the order for the confiscation of his assets on the grounds that the assets were legitimately acquired, as against the provisions of paragraph three of section 23 of the CCB act which only permits the seizure of such assets “if they were acquired by fraud.”
 
Mr Onnoghen questioned the failure of the prosecution to present the petitioner, Denis Aghanya, before the tribunal.
 
Mr Aghanya’s petition had birthed the charges against Mr Onnoghen.
 
According to Mr Onnoghen, all the allegations brought against him “constitute no offence and should therefore not have formed the basis for his conviction.”
 
“Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution Provides: –
 
“Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefor is prescribed in a written law.
 
“The allegations contained in all the six counts of the charge constitute no offence known to the law, as the offence as charged is neither defined in any law nor is any punishment prescribed therefor.”
 
Mr Onnoghen made seven requests before the tribunal. They include:
 
– An order that the lower tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the case.
 
– An order that the lower tribunal ought to have recused itself from the proceedings before it.
 
– An order that the charge has become academic.
 
– An order setting aside the conviction of the Appellant.
 
– An order setting aside the order for forfeiture of assets made by the Honourable Tribunal.
 
– An order discharging and acquitting the Appellant.  
(Premium Times)
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FG To Send Saraki’s CCT Records To Appeal Court This Week |The Republican News

SarakiBukola
     Senate President Bukola Saraki

Ade Adesomoju

The Federal Government is set to transmit to the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, over 3,000 pages of the records of the 21 months trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.

The transmission of records of the trial to the Court of Appeal is a legal requirement for the Federal Government to validate its notice of appeal filed against the CCT’s judgment, which recently discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges of false assets declaration.

According to legal experts, the Court of Appeal only assigns an appeal number to a case after receiving the “records of appeal” transmitted to it from the lower court.

The records transmission will set the stage for exchange of briefs between the parties involved in the case before a date for hearing of the appeal can be fixed by the Court of Appeal.

Ahead of the records transmission, which our correspondent gathered would likely take place this week, it was learnt that the legal team of the Federal Government and Saraki’s lawyers had, last week, participated in a “settlement of records” exercise.

During the records settlement exercise, the two parties agreed on the records of the trial before the CCT that would be sent to the Court of Appeal.

Our correspondent learnt from credible sources involved in the case that the document, which the appellant (the Federal Government) and the respondent (Saraki) settled on, were over 3,000 pages.

SUNDAY PUNCH also gathered that neither of the parties is foreclosed from seeking additional documents to be transmitted along with the already settled documents.

The record of the proceedings, which started in September 2015 and ended on June 14, 2016, when the Danladi Umar-led CCT dismissed the 18 counts preferred against Saraki, was said to have formed the bulk of the documents to be transferred to the Court of Appeal.

The documents agreed upon by parties to the appeal for transmission to the Court of Appeal were said to include the application to prefer charge; the first (original) charge; the amended charge; and the further amended charge.

The records also comprised Saraki’s motion on notice dated March 4, 2016, which sought the dismissal of the case on among other grounds that he was not invited to make a statement before he was charged.

Also to be included in the file are, prosecution’s counter-affidavit to the said motion; the prosecution’s further counter-affidavit to the said motion; the defendant’s further affidavit to the motion and a copy of the CCT’s delivered on March 24, 2016 dismissing the motion, among others.

Our correspondent learnt that the parties would return to the CCT within the week for the “compilation of records” during which they would both witness the sorting out of the various documents and include them in file to be transferred to the Court of Appeal.

After the records compilation, the file would be sent for transmission to the Court of Appeal.

The Head, Press and Public Relations of the CCT, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, confirmed that the records settlement took place last week.

He also said he did not know the volume of the records to be transmitted, because he did not participate in the records settlement exercise.

Al-Hassan said, “The parties involved in the case met last week to settle the records of appeal. I cannot confirm the documents that were agreed on.

“I also do not know the volume because I did not participate in the exercise of settlement but the two parties have agreed on a date for the transmission of the records.”

Saraki, who was charged before the tribunal in September 2015, was on June 14, 2017 discharged and acquitted by the Danladi Umar-led CCT.

The two-man panel of the CCT, in its unanimous judgment upheld Saraki’s no-case submission and exonerated him of all the 18 amended charges.

The judgment of the CCT was anchored on the grounds that the prosecution, after calling four witnesses and tendering 48 documentary exhibits, was unable to establish any prima facie case against the Senate President.

But the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, through its private prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on June 20, 2017, filed an 11-ground notice of appeal against the CCT’s judgment.

The charges instituted against Saraki before the CCT related to the alleged breaches of the code of conduct for public officers, acts which were said to be punishable under the Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act.

He allegedly committed the breaches by making false declaration of his assets while Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2007 for his first term and between 2007 and 2011 for his second term and from 2011 to 2015 as senator.