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Nigeria News

What The Civil Service Rules Say On Onnoghen

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Nigeria News takes a look at the other sides of CJN Walter Onnoghen’s trial.

As the alleged plot to sack the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen gradually turns to a legal battle of senior lawyers at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, one must not forget that the judge is a civil servant.

And according to the Civil service rules, Onnoghen may be facing a serious matter as the civil service rules are very clear on this.

The CCT under the leadership of Umar Danladi has adjourned the trial of Onnoghen till January 22.

What can happen beside the CCT is that the Federal Government, that is the prosecutor can refer Onnoghen’s misconduct to the National Judicial Council to sanction the CJN.

Onnoghen, though the Chairman of the NJC will be asked to vacate his seat to enable the body to investigate his alleged failure to declare his assets.

If this is seen as judicial misconduct, Onnoghen may be suspended and once he is on trial, he will be placed on half pay, according to the Civil service Rules. If found guilty, he automatically loses his position.

If he is innocent, he is recalled and paid in full. The CJN himself through the NJC, recently suspended some judges who were facing trial. They were eventually recalled when the courts discharged them.

I agree that the timing is not politically expedient. It is heating up the polity ahead of the elections but there is never a time the arraignment of the CJN won’t cause tension because it has never happened before.

Onnoghen is also the head of a critical arm of government, the judiciary. The claim that the CJN can’t be prosecuted without passing through NJC should be viewed from the two of the cases that caught my attention.

Nganjiwa v FRN and the notorious case of Hon Justice Erelu Habib, CJ Kwara. I will like to draw the attention of the members of the public to this if that Judicial misconduct is clear different from what the CJN is facing, no one is accusing him of judicial misconduct, but non declaration of his asset which is a constitutional provision under the 5th Schedule of the 1999 CFRN.

Going further, the supremacy of the constitution in Section:1 (1) and especially (3) where it is said that any other law that is inconsistent to the provision of the constitution shall, to the extent of its inconsistency, be null and void and the constitution shall prevail.

Section 11 (1) (2) of the 5th schedule made it clear as to when a public official should declare his assets, and false statement shall be deemed a breach of the code.

Section: 12 of the schedule made it clear where such allegation of breach will be taken to, it never mentioned NJC but CCB.

The Schedule also established the CCT and gave it powers under Section:18, thus listing the punishment it can impose under 18: (2).

Part II of the schedule, particularly no. 5 listed the CJN, JSC, P&JCA, and all other judicial Officers including staff of the court among public officers for the purpose of the code of conduct.

It is therefore invariably clear and even clearer that any violation of the Code of Conduct by the CJN can be taken straight to the CCB.

But if we insist that it must not be the case, then we might be inviting the National Assembly to also claim that any allegation against any of its members will go through the Ethics committee before the court.

Furthermore, the NJC has the CJN as its Chairman, this for the principle of justice to apply, he will still have to recuse himself because he can’t be a judge in his own case “Nemo judex in causa sua”.

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