By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria(CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday, closed his defense on his trial of non-assets declaration brought against him by the federal government.
The embattled CJN is standing trial on a six-count charge before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
Onnoghen, who had earlier indicated to produced two or more witnesses to his defense, had yesterday, informed the tribunal of his intention to make do with only one witness.
At the last adjourned date, the Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, at the instance of the defense, issued a subpoena to compel a Director at the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mrs Theresa Nwafor, who is serving at the CCB office in Edo state, to appear before him yesterday (Wednesday) as his second witness.
However, at the resumption of proceeding, yesterday, the CJN announced his decision to close his defence with only the testimony of his driver(DW1), adding that he would no longer need another testimony.
Counsel to Onnoghen, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, who is expected to call up the defense witness number 2(DW2), Mrs Nwafor, however, informed the tribunal of his intention of closing the defense.
According to the senior lawyer, Onnoghen, after the last sitting, took the decision after “a very deep review of the case”.
“My lords, after a very deep review and consideration of evidence already before this tribunal, the defence has taken the decision to close our case.
“And pursuant to paragraph 14 of the practice direction of this tribunal, we are applying to file our final written address.
“However, may we most humbly apply for record of the proceedings from the inception of this case. This is because we will need it to be able to appropriately review the entire proceedings,’’ he said.
He, therefore, pleaded with the tribunal for 14 days to file the final written address.
Reacting to the development, the prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), informed the court that Uche SAN had given him prior indication to close the defense’s case on Wednesday.
However, he urged the tribunal to use its discretion to fixe time for the filing and adopting of final addresses by the parties.
Danladi in his ruling, declined to grant the 14 days adjournment plea by the defense but, fixed April 15, for the parties to adopt their briefs of argument.
He said, afterwards, the tribunal will fixe a date for judgement and to deliver two rulings that are pending in the matter.
On March 11, 2019, the tribunal reserved ruling in the two applications filed Onnoghen, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear his matter on non assets declaration.
The Tribunal also reserve ruling on the motion asking for disqualification of the tribunal Chairman, Danladi, from participating in the trial, citing bias. Testifying as first defense witness in defence of Justice Onnoghen, his driver, Mr. Lawal Busari, said he personally drove Onnoghen to Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, in 2010, to submit his assets declaration form.
According to him, the defendant had on November 3rd, 2010, gave him N200 to buy the assets declaration form. He added that Onnoghen filed the form and together with him, they submitted the form at the CCB’s office in Asokoro Abuja and a receipt and acknowledgement document handed to them.
Recall that the FG, through the Code on Conduct Bureau (CCB) in January in the charge marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, alleged that Onnoghen failed to declare his assets as expected.
The act according to the FG, violation of section 15(2) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
It further claimed that the suspended CJN operated five foreign bank accounts, contrary to the code of conduct for public officers.