The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (CJN) on Frifday finally appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), pleading not guilty to the six counts of non-declaration of assets.
The suspended CJN was immediately granted bail on self-recognisance by the tribunal based on oral application by the defence counsel, Chris Uche (SAN).
Recall that Mr. Onnoghen had challenged the competence of the CCT to try him.
However, before the charges were read to Mr. Onnoghen, his counsel applied for the withdrawal of the arrest warrant issued by the CCT against the defendant earlier on Wednesday.
The CCT chairman, Umar Danladi granted the application and ordered the withdrawal of the arrest warrant due to the CJN’s voluntary submission to the tribunal on Friday.
He nevertheless hinted that the order of arrest was withdrawn on the condition that the suspended CJN would continue to be present in court throughout the period of his trial.
The CCT also granted the request of the defence counsel for an adjournment after the general elections and adjourned the matter till March 11.
On that date all pending applications by both the defence and the prosecution will be heard.
The pending applications include one by the CJN challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the charges.
Onnoghen’s counsel, Mr. Uche later told journalists that with the arraignment of the nation’s topmost judicial officer, “It is a very sad day for democracy, a very sad day for Nigeria.
“It is a struggle for the maintenance of the due process and it is a struggle for separation of powers.
“The CJN had to suffer the indignity of coming before this tribunal to take his plea.
“But we are happy that the world will now know the truth that there is more to this case.”