THE suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has resigned his appointment from office with immediate effect following allegations of misconduct and corruption brought against him by the executive arm of government.
Reports say Onnoghen submitted his resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, a day after the National Judicial Council (NJC) completed its investigation into the allegations against the former CJN and forwarded the findings to the President.
Though the content of the report has not been made public, the NJC, it was learnt recommended that Onnoghen should be compulsorily retired from service. He would have been due for retirement by 2020.
Onnoghen was accused of a series of offences ranging from false assets declaration − he allegedly did not declare several bank accounts he owns and which contain huge sums of money in local and foreign currency −, to bribery and misconduct.
Among several other allegations, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed that several senior lawyers paid huge sums of monies as bribes into Onnoghen’s accounts. The commission also said that one senior lawyer, Joe Agi, who had also been accused of corruption in the past, gave Onnoghen a car gift worth millions of naira.
However, the ex-CJN, in his defence said the monies were gifts from the lawyers given to him many years ago when his daughter was getting married.
Onnoghen’s resignation, if accepted by President Buhari, would mean that the President would no longer take the cumbersome route of seeking the approval of the Senate before dismissing him. However, the resignation also means that the former CJN could still be entitled to all his severance package as a former head of the nation’s judiciary.
Meanwhile, the case of false assets declaration is currently ongoing at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Both the prosecution and the defence teams in the case have closed their cases, and the tribunal had adjourned to enable both teams to prepare their final addresses before judgement would be delivered.
The case has been adjourned to April 15 for judgement.