Justice Walter Onnoghen
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President Buhari shakes Justice Walter Onnoghen JSC; credit: Twitter/DigiComms

THE LAW
I will try to say this in the least technical way because of the non-lawyers. It is simple as ABC, the law as it is in Nigeria presently is that you cannot charge a judicial officer for any kind of misconduct unless you send a petition to the NJC who has the task of investigating wrongdoings by judicial officers. Now the NJC is the National Judicial Council, constitutionally empowered in relation to appointment and discipline of judicial officers. The NJC is chaired by, guess who? The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen himself.

Cry from now till tomorrow, anything you do to the CJN or any charge against him without passing through the NJC is a nullity This is the easiest way to summarize the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of NGANJIWA v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. It holds no water, it cannot stand, it is dead on arrival and that is the law! I will come back to concerns about the transparency of the NJC or whether they could ever indict their “Oga”.

THE POLITICS
Whether you like it or not, there is always a political angle or perspective to such a high-profile tornado. Some people have accused the President of denigrating the headship of the Judiciary after he had done same with the heads of the Legislature. Some have accused him of attempting to remove the CJN because of tribal or regional bias, seeing that the next man poised to take over hails from the President’s region. Some have even said the CJN has been a PDP agent and favouring PDP in decisions, most notably the disqualification of APC from the Rivers State Gubernatorial race and that if the Presidential election should find its way to the Election Tribunal, it will be doom for the APC.

Buhari has never been known to be tactically intelligent. He has a zero sense of timing and diplomacy and none of the above would have mattered once he decided to go after the CJN. Whichever side you belong or whatever your perspective, it is not pretty, and we all are going to suffer for the implications of the systemic anarchy which we are systematically creating by ignoring the facts and approaching issues with primordial sentiments depending on our interest leanings. We are speaking about the head of the judiciary, I know, but the facts cannot be ignored.

THE MORALITY
I will not delve into the details of the allegations, but we now know that the Chief Justice of Nigeria omitted, neglected or refused to declare certain property in his asset declaration. This is said to include foreign bank accounts with thousands of dollars domiciled. It is a misconduct to refuse, omit or neglect to declare your assets and the only body charged with the task of finding any official guilty of this misconduct is the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Many have been so found. Why not the CJN you ask? He is a judicial officer and the law as it is does not allow him to be so charged unless the NJC says so.

MY TAKE
Wherever you lean, it is still the truth that there can be no win in this for the CJN. Right or left, he loses, and it is unfortunate that he has fallen victim of very cunning, evil but brilliant political calculations by the architects of his petition. As I said earlier, it is sad, but there is no win in this issue for the CJN. Either way, he loses.
Statement credited to him reveals he actually forgot to declare those assets, alluding to his guilt. If he goes before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he likely loses. But as I explained, before the CCT, there is the NJC.
The real question is whether the NJC would actually indict its Chairman and throw him to the sharks. I honestly do not think so. To me, it is not logical. The Presidency must have asked the same question and come to a similar conclusion. So, let’s assume for the sake of this write-up, the CJN has been politically targeted, there is no reason for politicians to care about the rule of law. For them, the end really justifies the mean

s.
The end here is that, the architects of the CJN’s misfortune win this, one way or the other and I would assume they realised this all along. The CJN has been hauled before the CCT, we said they don’t have jurisdiction, so he may now be taken before the NJC. With the events of the past few days, the spotlight is on the NJC and they may want to be seen to be doing the right thing. If they find their boss guilty, chances are, they will indict him. If they do not indict him, of course he will not be tried by the CCT, but the smear campaign continues, his reputation will be battered and his credentials to sit atop the apex of the country’s judiciary will be called into question. His alleged statement to clarify issues does not help matters. The CJN has been found wanting and has been played into a corner by desperate politicians. As a honourable man that I know him to be, there may be just one way out, resignation

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