The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the compulsory retirement of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen, a reliable source has told CHECKPOINTCHARLEY.
The NJC reached the decision after deliberating on the petition filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday.
The members of the judicial body agreed unanimously that the finding of the EFCC were “incontrovertible”, saying that Onnoghen has lost the moral authority to continue as CJN – with the numerous of allegations bordering on misconduct.
However, the NJC urged the President to retire Justice Onnoghen with full benefits and allow him retain his seat as a former CJN in the Council of State, a source familiar with the recommendation, who begged not to be named, said.
On the matter of the acting CJN, the council decided that Tanko Muhammad did not commit any offence by making himself available to be sworn in as acting CJN without the recommendation of the NJC.
These recommendations have been transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval according to the information released on Wednesday by Soji Oye, the council’s director of information.
Despite the recommendation to retire CJN Onnoghen, Mr, Buhari still needs the approval of the senate for Onnoghen to be retired if he decides to accept the advice.
This will require two-thirds majority of the upper legislative chamber as Section 292 (1) of the 1999 constitution says a “judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria… by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”
Onnoghen is still facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false asset declaration.
If found guilty, he could be removed from office.
Recall that President Buhari suspended Onnoghen on January 25, 2019 following an order made by the CCT.
The Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), a civil society group had filed a petition against him at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) over alleged false declaration of assets.
The CCB had listed a number of allegations against Onnoghen — notably false declaration of assets.