Onnoghen Absent Again As Trial Commences At CCT

The trial of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, continued on Wednesday at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

However, Justice Onnoghen is absent again at the Tribunal where he is facing trial over allegations of refusing to declare his assets.

The prosecution and the defence teams are already seated at the venue of the trial in Abuja, waiting for the panel of the tribunal to arrive.

The lead defence counsel Mr Adeboyega Awomolo informed the court that the NJC is sitting at the moment and he suspects that the CJN may be at that meeting so the court should guide parties on what to do.

He also told the court that since there are four applications pending the tribunal could take the applications.

The prosecutor Mr Danladi Umar told the tribunal that the defendant is not at the tribunal and has consistently refused to show up and is, therefore, relying on the practice direction of the tribunal to apply for an arrest warrant against justice Onnoghen to compel him to show up for trial.

He also said that contrary to the application of the lead defence counsel no motion is ripe for hearing in view of the absence of the defendant.

Mr Awomolo in his reply urged the tribunal to refuse the application for a warrant of arrest for seven reasons.

Firstly is to refer the tribunal to its record, thereby urging it to take judicial notice that the tribunal adjourned the matter on January 22 to 28 for arguments of all the applications.

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The argument as to the absence of the defendant was raised and the tribunal insisted on hearing the application.

There is no appeal by the prosecution against that decision.

Secondly, on the 28th the latter was again adjourned to February 4, 2019.

The rule cited by the prosecution says where the defendant fails to appear on the date set for arraignment there is no order or court record for arraignment.

The proceedings for today going by the records is to hear all applications.

Again the provisions of section 266 subsection B is very relevant to the sitting of today.

He says by that provision the proceedings are still at the stage of an interlocutory appeal.

But the prosecutor says the reasons adduced by the defence is just a technical argument.

According to him, a defendant can refuse to enter a plea but he has no right not to show up in court after he has been summoned.

The Chairman of the Tribunal said that he has a retentive memory and he remembers saying that the defendant must be at the tribunal.

But the defence counsel stated that the records of the court do not reflect the same.

Mr Umar, however, insisted that the defendant ought to be in court noting that section 396 of the administration of the criminal justice act requires a defendant must be in court at all times during the trial and the tribunal must use all the arsenal available to him to compel the defendant to be in court.

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