Nigerian Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen was set to stand trial Monday on six charges of allegedly failing to declare assets and holding foreign bank accounts.
While Onnoghen was not present at the trial, his team of 94 lawyers were present to defend him on these claims.
In addition, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) released a statement condemning the trial as an assault on the judiciary by government agencies. The NBA argues that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has not followed proper procedure set out in precedent. The charges should “first present whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the [National Judicial Council] for its deliberation and determination.”
In this statement, the NBA also noted that the presidential election is quickly approaching. Given the haste with which the charges against the Chief Justice were brought, and the trial called, the NBA argues that there is evidence to suggest that this is an attempt to intimidate the judiciary ahead of the election, as the Chief Justice is important in resolving any election disputes.
In addition to this claim, the NBA noted that two years ago, when Onnoghen was appointed to the position, the current President of Nigeria caused an unprecedented delay of the appointment for undisclosed reasons.
The proceedings in this case were adjourned until January 22 after Onnoghen’s chief counsel said that the Chief Justice was not properly served the charges and summons.