Walter Onnoghen is the first chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) to be thrown into a dock labeled “defendant box”.
The exalted seat of the CJN makes it almost impossible to see the other side of the judicial process.
Weeks before the commencement of his trial over alleged false assets declaration, TheCable reported that the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), a civil society group, had launched a legal move to remove Onnoghen.
Less than 24 hours after the report, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) announced that it had received a petition written against the then CJN. Subsequently, charges were filed against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) eventually recommended Onnoghen, who had since been on suspension, for compulsory retirement.
Here is a timeline of how events unfolded around the CJN who has now tendered his resignation.
October 10, 2016: NJC recommended Onnoghen as CJN to President Muhammadu Buhari.
November 11, 2016: Being the most senior at the supreme court after the retirement of Mohammed Mahmud, Onnoghen took over the leadership of the judiciary in acting capacity.
February 7, 2017: Acting President Yemi Osinbajo transmitted Onnoghen’s name to the senate for confirmation as substantive CJN.
February 28, 2017: Civil rights activists and groups alleged that there were plots to deny Onnoghen position of CJN.
March 1, 2017: Senate screened and confirmed Onnoghen.
March 7, 2017: Onnoghen was sworn in by Acting President Osinbajo.
WHEN THE TROUBLE BEGAN
January 7, 2019: Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), a civil society group, petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), listing a number of allegations against Onnoghen — notably false declaration of assets.
January 12, 2019: The CCB announced that it had filed a six-count charge against Onnoghen at the CCT.
January 14, 2019: Onnoghen absent as his trial commenced at CCT.
January 15, 2019: The National Industrial Court in Abuja gave an order restraining police from arresting Onnoghen.
January 16, 2019: Osinbajo said President Buhari did not know about plan to arraign Onnoghen.
Federal government asked the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to freeze five bank accounts belonging to Onnoghen.
January 21, 2019: The industrial court in Abuja reinforced its order restraining the continuation of the trial of Onnoghen.
January 22, 2019: Again, Onnoghen was absent at the CCT trial.
The federal government asked Onnoghen to step aside from office
January 25, 2019: Onnoghen was suspended and replaced by Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad
January 26, 2019: The United States issued a statement on Onnoghen’s suspension.
January 28, 2019: Police sealed off Onnoghen’s office
- CCT adjourned Onnoghen’s trial indefinitely
- Senate challenged Onnoghen’s suspension at the supreme court
- The attorney-general of the federation (AGF) sent criminal allegations against Onnoghen to NJC
January 29, 2019: Onnoghen sued federal government over suspension.
January 30, 2019: Onnoghen lost bid to stop CCT trial.
February 4, 2019: CCT chairman accused Onnoghen’s lawyer of delaying trial.
February 7, 2019: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) traced lawyer’s $30,000 payment to Onnoghen’s account.
February 11, 2019: NJC asked Onnoghen to respond to a petition EFCC written against him.
February 13, 2019: CCT ordered Onnoghen’s arrest.
February 15, 2019: Onnoghen finally appeared at CCT and pleaded not guilty.
March 17, 2019: EFCC raided Onnoghen’s farm, taking custody of some vital documents
March 18, 2019: Onnoghnen said his asset declaration forms were tampered with.
March 21, 2019: A witness from the CCB said Onnoghen’s asset forms haven’t been verified since 2016.
The federal government closed case against Onnoghen
March 29, 2019: CCT dismissed a no-case application brought before it by Onnoghen.
April 1, 2019: Onnoghen opened defence at CCT.
April 3, 2019: Onnoghen closed defence at CCT.
- EFCC detailed criminal allegations against Onnoghen before the NJC
- Onnoghen said he never took bribe
- NJC recommended Onnoghen for retirement
April 4, 2019: Onnoghen resigned as CJN