The Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has said that the conviction of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), yesterday, has shown that nobody is above the law in the country.
Speaking with New Telegraph, not TheNigerialawyer yesterday at his Surulere, Lagos law chamber on the conviction of the nation’s one Chief Judge, Sagay said Onnoghen allowed himself to be misled by a team of Senior Advocates who later dumped him when the heat was much. He said: “Nobody is above the law.
These Senior Advocates and some of these judges wanted to create a privileged class who has powers to judge others and send them to prison, but they commit crimes and find immunity for it. I find that absolutely unacceptable.”We can see from what has happened the quality of some of these Senior lawyers. “Once adversity started, once it was clear that the Chief Justice was going to lose the case, did you see them with him again? They stopped going to the court with him, they are all opportunists. They are people who want to be seen in the public so that they can be recognized and remembered when money is being shared and so on.
“It’s a shame, but I think the principle has been established and that is nobody is above the law. I also think we can admit that there is serious problem with our judiciary and there is need for cleaning. If that level is not clean, then the rest of the country will remain unclean.” While ruling out any act of victimization or politics as it concerns the 2019 election in the plight of Onnoghen, Sagay said: “What has happened is that somebody in a high position has not met the standard of that position. When these charges were first brought against the CJN, what happened was scandalous.
“His friends and acolytes started jumping from one court to another, seeking unnecessary injunctions; they even went to the National Industrial Court. They even went to the Appeal Court when there is nothing to appeal. So, they didn’t handle the matter with dignity and respect that his office demands. “At the time he should have resigned honourably, he decided to fight dirty with all these Senior Advocates pushing him on and misleading him. But now they have all deserted him,”he said. Also, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Dr. Biodun Layonu and Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson also hailed the judgement.
Candide-Johnson described the travails of the former CJN as a huge human tragedy, saying he could have saved himself the agonising humiliation if he had risen to the occasion. He said: “It’s a huge human tragedy. He could have spared himself, the judiciary, the profession and the nation this agonising humiliation. He was not man enough for the occasion.
But the law has been vindicated. It applies to high and to low. “This may be a watershed in our profession and in the administration of justice in Nigeria if the right lessons are learnt. Only time will tell.” In his own submission, Dr. Layonu said it would have been shocking to him if the CCT’s verdict had gone the other way. “It could have been news if the former CJN, Justice Onnoghen, was not convicted by the CCT. It could have been shocking for me if the CJN was not convicted,” the silk said. Mr. Wahab Shittu, a lawyer and EFCC counsel, however, said that Onnoghen might fight a protracted legal battle against the CCT’s conviction.
“I believe that the Code of Conduct Tribunal made its own pronouncement, but that is not the end of the matter. “I see Onnoghen exercising his constitutional right of appeal; the matter might be protracted and get up to the Supreme Court. “It is a sad commentary on our judiciary as no one should celebrate what has happened in this situation where the number one judge in the country has found himself in this kind of predicament. “It does not call for celebration, it calls for sober reflection and deep concern. “I want to reserve further comments until the machinery of justice is fully exhausted because I feel the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court will make further pronouncements,” Shittu said.
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