No fewer than 150 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) have volunteered to put up their appearances in defence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen on Monday, before the Justice Danladi Yakubu led-Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
This is coming on the heels of the federal government’s resolve to arraign and prefer criminal charges against the CJN on Monday January 14, 2019 before the CCT in Abuja over alleged failure to declare his assets as required by law and for operating Bank Domiciliary Foreign Currency Accounts.
Constitutional lawyer, Sebastine Hon, SAN in a telephone chat with Daily Trust on Saturday said the number of eminent lawyers that have volunteered to defend the CJN might even be more than 150.
All efforts to get the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN, to comment on this development tonight failed as he neither picks calls nor reply text messages sent to his mobile lines.
The constitutional lawyer described the six-count criminal charge against the CJN as a deliberate attempt to gag the judiciary.
In a statement on Saturday, Sebastine Hon, SAN also urged the CJN not to heed to what he termed as an “unholy call” for him to step aside.
He said: “While I know that the Chief Justice of Nigeria does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, I see this move by the Federal Government as dangerously political and tendentious.
“Suddenly, we woke to see a petition leaked to the informal or social media, allegedly received by the Code of Conduct on 9th January, 2019.
“Suddenly, we are told charges have been filed against the CJN. Suddenly the Presidency is reportedly asking him to step aside! Was he interrogated or interviewed and his own reactions obtained?”
The FG among others is accusing Nigeria’s head of the judiciary of refusal to declare his assets in breach of the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
He is also being accused of maintaining domiciliary foreign currencies account which comprised of Dollars Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account which were alleged to be contrary to relevant laws, especially for public office holders.
It was also gathered that the FG has by implication ordered the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen to immediately vacate office.
Also speaking, a Lagos-based constitutional lawyer, Barrister Johnson Esezebo, said there is no sentiment in law, adding that whoever runs contrary to the law should face the music.
“If the CJN has run contrary to the law, he should be made to face the music. I want to remind us what Justice Akinola Aguda, of the blessed memory said in 1978 when handling a case in which a lawyer was found guilty,
“He said ‘because you are a lawyer, who is supposed to know better, I will give you the maximum punishment’, prescribed under this act.
“I want lawyers, and judges to know that if politicians can fail the society, military can fail the society, lawyers cannot afford to fail the society or else we are all doomed. We should not drag sentiment into law. No matter the people’s nomenclature, tribe, religion, we should be guided by the law”, the lawyer said.