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Prosecution agrees Onnoghen was wrongly served, as Tribunal shifts arraignment to Jan 22

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Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen briefing State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in AbujaCallistus Ewelike /OTU/ICE/NAN

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has shifted the arraignment of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to Jan. 22.

The change of date for Onnoghen’s arraignment followed argument by the defence counsel that the CJN was not properly served.

Lead prosecuting counsel, Mr Aliyu Umar (SAN), conceded that Justice Onnoghen, was not properly served with the summons to appear before the CCT in Abuja on Monday.

Umar conceded that the CJN was not personally served with the charges and the court’s summons as required by the law.

He, therefore, requested the three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar to direct a fresh service on the CJN.

Onnoghen was absent from Monday’s proceedings scheduled for his arraignment before the CCT on charges of non-declaration of his assets.

About 45 Senior Advocates of Nigeria and 55 senior lawyers represented the CJN at the tribunal.

The tribunal chairman upon inquiry about Onnoghen’s absence from court, was told by the defence team, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that the CJN needed not to be present having filed a motion to challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Olanipekun said he and other defence lawyers only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

He also said from the account given by the court official earlier in the proceedings, the CJN was not served with the charges and and summons personally, but through his aide.

Olanipekun insisted that the law requires that the defendant be personally served.

But the prosecuting lawyer said the law only requires the defendant to be aware of the pending charges, and that it was the CJN’s choice to ask his aide to receive the charges and summons on his behalf.

After series of argument which lasted for about 45 minutes, the prosecuting counsel conceded that the service of the charges and the summons ought to have been personally served on Onnoghen.

“By what the registrar has said, although the defendant was the one who directed his personal assistant to accept service on his behalf and what the law says is that he must be personally served.

“We agree that that the service should be properly done. The processes should be served personally on him.

“If, after the service is done, and the defendant is not present, we can then argue whether or not he needs to be present on the grounds that he has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court.”

Chief Olanipekun leads a team of lawyers to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Abuja in defence of Onnoghen, who is being arraigned by the Federal Government for non declaration of his assets.

Chief Chris Uche, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, Sebastine Hon, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, Kehinde Ogunwumiju and A.T Kehinde are among the 45 Senior Advocates of Nigeria representing Onnoghen.

Also, 55 lawyers are in the Onnoghen’s defence team.

A former Director of Public Prosecution in Kano State, Aliyu Umar (SAN), is leading the Federal Government’s prosecution ‎team.

Umar was one of the senior lawyers appointed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), as part of government’s prosecution team in 2016.

He led the FG’s prosecution team that was to prosecute the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu for alleged forgery of Senate rules.

The charges were however, withdrawn from court the legal team.