World, Africa

Nigerian govt asks chief justice to step down

Tribunal rejects court injunctions to halt trial of top judge

Nigerian govt asks chief justice to step down

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria

The Nigerian government on Tuesday asked the country's chief justice to step down from office while he faces charges on six counts of failing to declare his assets and operating unlawful offshore accounts.

The government had last week filed charges before the country's code of conduct tribunal accusing Walter Onnoghen of violating the country's laws for public servants. Onnoghen did not appear at the tribunal to take his plea as demanded in criminal trial, saying instead that the panel lacks jurisdiction.

“We have an application that the tribunal should direct the Honorable Chief Justice to step aside pending the determination of the case,” Aliu Umar, counsel to the government, told the tribunal on Tuesday at the resumption of the hearing.

Onnoghen did not appear at the hearing for the second time, relying on injunctions by two federal courts which asked the tribunal to stay action until cases on the matter have been decided.

Umar said the government may also seek the arrest of the top judge if he continues to ignore summons.

Onnoghen has gone down in history as Nigeria’s first head of the judiciary to be docked for corruption.

The tribunal has slated Feb 4. for the continuation of the trial.

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