The trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has commenced without him in attendance.
Justice Onnoghen is facing six charges bordering on failure to declare his assets and operating a domiciliary account, among other charges.
The defense team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), is appearing against the Federal Government’s prosecution team with only one Senior Advocate of Nigeria and four other junior counsels.
About 30 Senior Advocates of Nigeria with a battery of about 100 other junior lawyers have so far appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja in defence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), a former Director of Public Prosecution in Kano State arrived the CCT at about 9.10am.
Upon an inquiry by the tribunal chairman about Onnoghen’s absence from court, Olanipekun said he and other defence lawyers only appeared in court in protest against the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
Wole Olanipekun during the session insists that the CJN does not need to appear in court when he has not been properly served.
He also said that, from the account given by the court official earlier in the proceedings, the CJN was not served with the charges and summons personally, but through his aide.
Olanipekun insisted that the law requires that the defendant be served personally.
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.
But after a back-and-forth argument that went on 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.”
The Danladi Umar-led three-man Code of Conduct Tribunal adjourned proceedings involving the charges of non-declaration of assets preferred against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, till January 22.