Onnoghen resigns as CJN with immediate effect

The suspended CJN, Walter Onnoghen has resigned as the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) with immediate effect.

Onnoghen, according to a report in The Cable turned in his resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday evening, a day after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended that he be compulsorily retired for misconduct.

By virtue of section 306 of the 1999 constitution, his resignation takes immediate effect.

Section 306 says “(1) Save as otherwise provided in this section, any person who is appointed, elected or otherwise selected to any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the authority or person by whom he was appointed, elected or selected. (2) The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”

The resignation, The publication said, was the “best possible option” for Onnoghen under the current circumstance.

It will also save Buhari from having to get two-thirds majority of the Senate to confirm Onnoghen’s retirement as stipulated in Section 292 (1) of the 1999 constitution which 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.”

Justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year on the orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which was given on January 23 over allegations that he failed to disclose his domiciliary accounts in his asset declaration form.

The President while announcing Onoghen’s suspension defended his action thus, “A short while ago, I was served with an Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued on Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, from office, pending final determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and several other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

“The nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a Civil Society Organisation first became public about a fortnight ago.

“Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.”

He added, “Perhaps more worrisome is the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s own written admission to the charges that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing mistake’’ and forgetfulness’’ which are totally unknown to our laws as defences in the circumstances of his case.”

The President argued that Onnoghen ought to have resigned before now, having admitted mistakes.

He noted, “One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our judicial arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.”

The President followed it up by inaugurating Tanko Mohammed from Bauchi state as the new CJN.