Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is unrelenting in his opposition to the arraignment of Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged fraudulent asset declaration, SaharaReporters has been told.
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had filed a six-count charge bordering on fraudulent declaration of assets against the CJN at the CCT, after receiving a petition from Dennis Aghanya, Executive Secretary of the Anti-corruption Research Data-Based Initiative (ARDBI).
But SaharaReporters subsequently unveiled Aghanya as a staunch fan of President Muhammadu Buhari and his allies, after which it later emerged that Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport, is the ringleader of the President’s allies pulling the strings of Onnoghen’s arraignment from the background.
SaharaReporters understands that while Amaechi and his allies — including Okoi Obono-Obla, Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery Public Property (SPIP) — remain bent on removing Onnoghen from office by any possible means, Osinbajo has continued to maintain that the CCT option is not in line with due legal process.
According to a highly placed source in the All Progressives Congress (APC) who is very familiar with the matter, Osinbajo is insisting that while the CJN may have questions to answer, due process must be clearly and transparently followed.
“There are strong claims implicating the CJN on several fronts, including breach of extant laws bordering on corruption and conspiracies. This was the basis of the need to prosecute the CJN,” said the source.
“But the VP denounced the plan to arraign the CJN before the tribunal immediately he got wind of it, insisting that due process had to be followed strictly, especially in dealing with such an important personality in the judiciary.
“The VP specifically warned against the arraignment at the CCT and the current manner in which the case is being pursued. While he acknowledged the strong case against the CJN, the VP firmly noted that there should be a diligent approach that is in line with due process.”
The source added that Osinbajo seemed to have had his way initially, however Amaechi went behind to draft a few security officials into the plot to arraign the CJN at the tribunal.
“Even the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami was kept in the dark until very late in the day regarding the arraignment at the tribunal,” he said.
Onnoghen was absent as his arraignment before Honourable Danladi Umar of the CCT kicked off on Monday as Amaechi wanted. However, it was adjourned to Tuesday January 22 after Onnoghen — represented by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), plus 41 other SANS and more than 40 other lawyers — successfully argued that he was not properly served.
A Federal High Court in Abuja subsequently halted the arraignment and trial of the CJN), Justice N. E. Maha ordering the parties to maintain status quo until January 17, and that the defendants should be served with all the papers filed and they should appear in court at the next hearing.