The proceedings of the scheduled arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, for his scheduled arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of non-assets’ declaration, has triggered legal arguments in the Monday’s proceedings scheduled to be for his arraignment.
However, matters became too tense when the Chief Justice was not present at the tribunal for the arraignment.
Upon an inquiry by the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, about why the CJN was absent from court, the team of defence lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said his client needed not to be present on the grounds that he had filed a motion challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
The court official who announced the case observed that the CJN was not present and then notified the tribunal chairman of the development.
After the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), announced his appearance, the tribunal asked the court official whether the CJN had been served with the charges and summons.
The court official confirmed that the CJN was served through ‘his personal assistant’.
Meanwhile, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who is the lead for the CJN’s defense stated that he and other defence lawyers only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the court.
He also said from the account given by the court official earlier in the proceedings, the CJN was not served with the charges and summons personally but through his aide.
Olanipekun insisted that the law required that the defendant was personally served.
But the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), said the law only required 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.
The court official had earlier confirmed that the CJN was served through his personal assistant.
He said, “He was served through his personal assistant. We went to his house and the defendant directed his personal assistant to collect the charge and summons on his behalf. So the defendant has been served.”
However, after a back-and-forth argument that went on for about 45 minutes, the prosecuting counsel conceded that the service of the charges and the summons ought to have been personally served on Onnoghen.
He, therefore, requested the three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar to direct a fresh service on the CJN.
“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.”
In light of this recent development, the Danladi Umar-led three-man Code of Conduct Tribunal adjourned proceedings on the case till January 22.
Umar ruled that the tribunal would hear Onnoghen’s motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal at the next proceedings.
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