Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), recently threw in the towel by resigning his appointment with immediate effect.
The embattled former CJN, who has also been facing trial t the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged offences relating to assets declarations, reportedly turned in his resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari last week Thursday, a day after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended that he should be compulsorily retired for alleged misconduct.
The NJC had on Wednesday said it forwarded the outcome of its investigation into corruption allegations against Onnoghen to Buhari, for action. The NJC in a statement signed by Soji Oye, its Director of Information, said it convened an emergency meeting to consider the report of the five-man committee it constituted to investigate allegations of misconduct that were levelled against Onnoghen and Justice Tanko Muhammad, the Acting CJ.
However, the NJC said it decided to refrain from considering the allegation that Onnoghen failed to declare his assets, saying it would amount to subjudice since the matter is in court.
It would be recalled that the NJC had on February 13, said it was satisfied that corruption allegations against the suspended CJN deserved to be investigated. The council also okayed the probe of the Acting CJN, Justice Muhammad, on the allegation that he engaged in misconduct by making himself available to be sworn by President Buhari as Onnoghen’s replacement.
Pursuant to Rule 20 (1) of the Judicial Discipline Regulations, the NJC, constituted a five-man investigation panel headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice S. A. Akintan, to look into various petitions that were lodged both against Onnoghen and Muhammad.
It directed the Investigation Committee “to work expeditiously, determine all the petitions and responses and report to Council for a final decision.”
Now that that Justice Onnoghen has resigned his appointment, should the Federal Government still go ahead to prosecute him?
It Is No Longer Necessary For FG To Prosecute Justics Onnoghen – Historian
Adeyemi Ruth, a Minna-based historian, said: “I am not a lawyer, hence, I may not be able to use some legal terms. I also do not have details of what the former Chief Justice is being accused of than what many of you have reported as ‘false declaration of assets’. But, speaking as a layman from the moral point of view, I do not think it is necessary for the Federal Government to prosecute the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, now that he has resigned.
“Whatever Onnoghen has done, he is not the only one that has committed such offence or crime in Nigeria today. There are many other or even worst of his kind within the judiciary and other arms of the government or sectors of Nigerian economy yet to be discovered today.
“So, to me, prosecuting him shouldn’t be the most important thing for the Federal Government now that there are more pressing problems the country is grappling with.
“Again, prosecuting the former Chief Justice for false declaration of assets could throw up new challenges or be a distraction to the government, especially now that he has told Nigerians that he decided to bow out to save the judiciary.
“It means that he has something in his kitty, which if released in the public domain, may not be pleasant for the image of the Federal Government trying to probe him more than what is already in the public domain.
“Besides, the issue of the former Chief Justice shouldn’t take the whole of the Federal Government’s attention from what they are doing to give Nigerians the kind of leadership it deserved.
But, like I have always said, the Federal Government should not be discriminately in its fight against corruption or bringing sanity to its anti corruption war. For instance, when some persons commit offences, the issues are swept under the carpet. But, when other persons from different tribes, regions or religions commit the same offences, they become serious crimes that the persons must be dealt with.”
Nobody Is Above Prosecution – Estate Manager
Dr. Ogbeide Innocent Amenaghowon, a Benin-based Estate Manager and Valuer, said, “Former CJN Onnoghen is already being prosecuted. His resignation is part of the prosecution. Before he tendered his resignation, as we were made to understand, you should know that everything about criminal investigation around him must have been concluded by the security agents.
“Nobody is above prosecution. All we are saying is that politics or improper motives should not be imputed. Before becoming a judge, Onnoghen is a lawyer. The court is an opportunity for him to explain and defend himself in all the allegations against him. The issue of Onnoghen has now gone beyond politics. It is time Nigerians should know the whole truth about the entire scenario.
“There have been too many insinuations about Justice Onnoghen. It is only through trial in an open court that the whole truth about him would be known. So, let him be prosecuted because nobody is above the law, no matter how highly placed. I will support any move to prosecute him to enable him prove his innocence. If he is found guilty, he should be made to face music.”
There Is No Need To Prosecute Onoghen – Activist
Kindness Jonah, Enugu-based Convener of Voice From the East (VEAST), said it is needless prosecuting former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onoghen, after his resignation. According to him, legal reviews in Nigeria has never and can never produce any result.
Jonah said whatever offence the former CJN committed was glaring, even before his swearing in and only became an issue when he was the authentic CJN.
He said: “I think that prosecuting him is needless. It is like locking the staple door after the horse has jilted. This is sequel to the fact that postdated analysis of legal reviews in Nigeria has not produced any result and can never. Whatever his offence, they were glaring before his swearing. Why swipe horses in mystery, now that he is neck deep as the authentic CJN?
“A corollary to the fact is that he is seen as a convex contour in the actualisation of Buhari’s second term dream, which will tantamount to ruffling any feathers perceived inimical to Islamic dictates. That is where the groaning serpent lies in Nigeria, make no mistake about it.”
Nigerians Are Witnessing Highest Persecution Of Judiciary – Lawyer
Mike Oyediran, a legal expert, says: “What we are witnessing today as per the trial of the immediate-past embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, can be aptly described as the highest plot of propaganda and persecution of the judiciary.
”Why wait until few weeks to an election before coming out with the allegations? I for one, suspected a grand plot to pave the way for a seamless electoral victory for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), the political party in charge of the affairs of the country.
“If the original design was to disgrace him out of office, it is already achieved. I see also, a behind-the-scene amicable resolution and settlement between the Federal Government and top players in the judiciary.
“Government’s attempt at the ICPC was shoddy which saw even supposed prosecution witnesses testifying in favour of Onnoghen. Since he has resigned, I will strongly insist that we move forward as, attempting to prosecute Walter Onnoghen will cost us huge sums of money.
“The government does not even its case prepared against Onnoghen, but more like groping in the dark, in search of evidences against the now ex CJN.”
Onnoghen Has Suffered Enough And Should Be Allowed To Rest – APP Scribe
Nzeh Nnawuba Johnson Ijenna is the Secretary, Action Peoples Party (APP), Ehime Mbano Council Area of Imo State. He said: “The former CJN has suffered enough and should be allowed to rest. After all, we all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.
“Prosecuting him after removing him from office and after his official resignation is not the best. Are you saying that Water Onnoghen is the worst criminal in Nigeria today just because he either wittingly or unwittingly failed to declare his full assets?”
There Should Be No Sacred Cow In Anti-Graft War – NCP Woman Leader
Nneoma Chinyere Uzoma, Women Leader National Conscience Party (NCP), Ihitte/Uboma LGA, Imo State, stated: “If there is overwhelming evidence against the former CJN, he should be prosecuted, even though he has resign from office.
“If we are serious in the fight against corruption, there should be no sacred cow. One cannot commit an offence while in office only to resign later to evade justice. The law is not made for the poor alone but for the poor and the rich in society.”
The Ex-CJN Should Not Be Above The Law – Lawyer
Barrister Adewale Oladapo, an Osogbo-based lawyer, said that Justice Walter Onnoghen should be prosecuted despite his resignation to serve as deterrent to others holding public offices.
According to him, holders of public offices should be made to face the music for their inactions while holding office because they are not supposed to be above the law and it is high time that we began to apply the laws to sanitise the system.
“There is nothing that is wrong with our laws, we are the one that refuses to apply it always because of the sentiment we always introduce to it. There is nothing wrong if the former President guilty of corrupt practices while in office face the music.
“For instance, former President of this country that dipped his hands into the nation’s treasury and empty it for personal political reason must be made to face the music. It is a way to sanitise the already bastardised system and make things to work well again in the country,” Oladapo insisted.
Prosecution Of Onnoghen Will Yield Nothing – Akwa Ibom AG
Barr Uwemedimo Nwoko, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, has described the ongoing prosecution of former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as the most fraudulent form of corruption any country can experience.
He said undermining the rule of law to allow the whims and caprices of a few hate-filled Nigerians on a sensitive arm of government is leading a mission against nation building.
Nwoko said he suspected the move to be an the attempt to break the other legs making up the tripod upon which Nigeria stands.
According to him, “We cannot get anywhere in the manner we are embarking on our journey to nationhood. We may think that it is Onnoghen who is being embattled. No! It is Nigeria. Nigeria is convulsing. Our democracy is in state of coma. The entire structure of our nation building has been hijacked by men and women who have no conscience. No country can survive in the hands of the characteristic elements leading Nigeria today.
“The ongoing drama is not on the rule of law, but on the desire and wishes of individuals, who are out to suppress the constitution. It is highly condemnable and not expected to yield any positive result in the process of nation building. You cannot build a nation on a faulty foundation and expect a decent result.
“Nigeria is sick and the prosecution of the former CJN cannot help Nigeria until our leaders allow the rule of law to thrive. How much is left of Nigeria? And can it be salvaged if the president knows he lacks the powers to prosecute or remove a sitting CJN, but still went ahead to fraudulently obtain the power to do so? That is the most fraudulent corruption that any country can experience.”
Nwoko maintained however that no one is above the law, and that looking into anyone’s record, but with the right procedure, would not have been criticised by any right thinking Nigerian. He expressed concerns that with the tone already set by the Federal Government to weaken other arms of government, the executive arm in states across the nation may begin to adopt same approach as laid down by the Buhari-led Federal Government..