Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Wednesday ordered security agencies to arrest the country’s suspended chief justice enmeshed in a controversy bordering on asset-declaration rules.

The ruling to arrest Walter Onnoghen, the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), was given at a sitting by the CCT in the capital Abuja.

Onnoghen was charged with operating secret accounts with millions of U.S. dollars undeclared.

Chairman of the CCT Danladi Umar ordered Nigeria’s acting police chief and the secret police chief to effect the arrest of the top judge ahead of a sitting by the tribunal on Friday.

Onnoghen’s trial started when a petition was filed at the Code of Conduct Bureau by a civil rights group which alleged that he owned some accounts mainly funded through cash deposits made by himself.

The sundry accounts were alleged to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials in the country.

On January 14, Onnoghen was absent at the commencement of his trial. It had been then adjourned several times with the former top judge consistently failing to show up in the court.

On January 25, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the chief judge and replaced him on the same day. The move had triggered a mixed reaction from lawyers, political stakeholders, citizens within and outside the country, and the international community.

Hundreds of lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association took to streets in protest, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) suspended its presidential election campaign for three days to protest the suspension of Onnoghen.

Some of the protesters, including the PDP, had alleged that Onnoghen’s suspension had a political undertone, particularly as it was done while the country was preparing for a crucial presidential election.

The CCT on February 4 adjourned again the trial of Onnoghen at the request of his lawyer.

And on Wednesday, the CCT gave its order following an application by the government lawyer who said the consistent absence of the chief justice from the CCT was a violation of provisions of the country’s Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

The CCT is established as a special tribunal dedicated to combating corruption in all the levels, arms and agencies of government in Nigeria.

It works in collaboration with the Code of Conduct Bureau, a body charged with the superintendence of the constitutionally obligated declaration of assets by every public officer in Nigeria as well as investigation of corrupt practices related to such declaration. Enditem


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