By Martins Odeh
Abuja – The arraignment of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja could not take place on Monday as earlier scheduled.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Counsel for Onnoghen had raised an issue on improper service of the summons on the CJN.
Olanipekun also argued that his application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charges should be heard in the absence of his client.
“We have an application on behalf of the defendant filed Jan.14 challenging the jurisdiction of this tribunal to sniff the countenance of this petition.
“ There are precedents and laws that mandate court to hear interlocutory applications in criminal matters without the defendant in court.
“The absence of the defendant in court is not intentional. He is not here because he was not served with the summons to be here.
“We have taken the liberty of the news of his summons to be in the tribunal to file our protest application challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
“Sections 123 and 124 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) mandate criminal summons to be served on the defendant personally and not by substituted means.
“The argument by the prosecution that the defendant was served though his Senior Special Assistant, one Sunday. O. must be immediately discountenanced,’’ Olanipekun said.
Malam Umar Aliyu (SAN), Counsel for Federal Government, however, raised objections to Olanipekun’s submissions, adding that the defendant was duly served.
He said that there was no existing laws shielding a defendant from been arraigned in a criminal matter.
Aliyu, therefore, went ahead to urge the tribunal not to entertain the defendants motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court until he had taken his plea.
After much argument, the prosecutor re-shaped his prayers by urging the tribunal to order a re-service on the defendant.
Giving his ruling, Mr Umar Danjuma, Chairman of the tribunal, ordered that the defendant be serviced the summons afresh.
Danjuma, therefore, adjourned the proceedings until Jan.22.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that an Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, filed the petition against Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct (CCB).
Mr Dennis Aghanya, Executive-Secretary of the organisation, who made the copy of the petition available to NAN on Saturday in Abuja, said the body had acted as a whistle blower.
Aghanya said the petition, which was filed on Jan. 7, was an offshoot of a painstaking investigation into the dealings of the CJN.
The 6-count charge had among other things accused Onnoghen of violating the CCB/CCT Act by engaging on false and non declaration of his assets.
NAN reports that a total of 45 Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and 55 members of the outer-bar were in court to represent the CJN.