World, Africa

Nigeria: Suspended top judge appears at tribunal

Walter Onnoghen pleads not guilty to false assets charges

Nigeria: Suspended top judge appears at tribunal

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria

Nigeria's suspended chief justice made his first appearance Friday at a code of conduct tribunal for his false assets declaration trial.

Walter Onnoghen arrived in Abuja where he finally entered a “not-guilty” plea to charges he did not fully declare assets as the law requires.

The government slapped a six-count charge of false assets declaration against the top judge after which he was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari, whose action has polarized the country, including lawyers who insisted he acted unlawfully, accused Onnoghen of abusing his office and manipulating the courts to shield himself from trial.

Onnoghen spurned summons to take his plea at the tribunal, insisting the special court lacks jurisdiction to try him. Government lawyers argued otherwise.

The tribunal ordered his arrest Wednesday as he repeatedly failed to appear in court.

At the tribunal on Friday, Onnoghen was granted bail following an application by his legal team.

Onnoghen is the first serving chief justice to be charged for corruption and the second to have been unceremoniously removed from office.

The first was Teslim Elias who later served in the World Court in the 1970s.

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