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Charges against CJN illegal, null and void – Adegboruwa

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A Lagos – based Human Rights Lawyer , Mr . Ebun – Olu Adegboruwa , says the charges pending before the Code of Conduct Tribunal against the Chief Justice of Nigeria , Justice Walter Onnoghen , are illegal.
Adegboruwa on Monday in Lagos described the entirety of the process as “ unconstitutional , illegal, null and void ;” adding that same ought to and should be withdrawn forthwith .

Onnoghen was arraigned on Monday , January 14 before the CCT , following six counts of allegations of failure to declare his assets .

According to Adegboruwa , by the provisions of Section 36 ( 4 ) of the 1999 Constitution, a citizen who is charged with a criminal offence must be taken to the appropriate forum within the requisite jurisdiction, be it a court of law , a tribunal or such other quasi – judicial organ .

“ By Section 153 ( 1 ) ( i ) & ( 2 ) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council was established for the Federation of Nigeria .

“ By Paragraph 20 ( b ) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the NJC shall ‘ exercise disciplinary control’ over all judicial officers , including the CJN .

“ The NJC being a quasi – judicial organ established by the Constitution, it is the appropriate forum to first raise any matter against any judicial officer , including the CJN ; thus , the NJC has exclusive jurisdiction over all judicial officers , including the CJN .

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“ By the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria , no criminal charge can be laid against a judicial officer , including the CJN , in any court of law , without first filing such complaint before the NJC .

“ The Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal are both part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , and are bound by the decisions of the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria , ” Adegboruwa said in a statement .

According to him , under Section 287 ( 2 ) of the Constitution, the decisions of the Court of Appeal shall be enforced in any part of the Federation , by all authorities and persons and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Court of Appeal .

He said that the CCB and CCT are both subordinate entities to the Court of Appeal , who are bound to enforce , apply and obey the decision of the Court of Appeal in Nganjiwa v FRN.

“ From the foregoing , the criminal charges filed against the CJN before the CCT are illegal, ultra vires , unconstitutional , null and void and should either be withdrawn forthwith by the CCB , discontinued by the AGF by filing a nolle proseque , or struck out by the CCT .

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“ By virtue of section 36 ( 5 ) of the 1999 Constitution, every person ( including the CJN ) who is charged with a criminal offense shall be presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved , ” he said

Adegboruwa noted that by virtue of the “ illegal charges ” alone, the CJN cannot be asked to vacate his office .

He said that whereas , no citizen is above the law to be arraigned or charged for any criminal offence , the CJN must be accorded his full constitutional rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

“ I therefore appeal for transparency and uniform application of standards in the prosecution drive of the administration .

“ As we approach the 2019 general elections, I appeal for calm from all , and I urge the Executive arm of government to demonstrate unlimited respect for the due process of law always in order not to heat up the polity unduly , given the current state of affairs of our dear country , ” the lawyer said .

( NAN )

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