By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - Nigeria’s chief justice on Monday failed to appear for his arraignment on a six-count charge of alleged failure to declare his assets and operation of unlawful foreign accounts.
Walter Onnoghen sent a team of senior lawyers who said the judge had not been properly summoned to appear before the code of conduct tribunal and filed an application to challenge the tribunal’s jurisdiction to try the country’s most senior judge.
“You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter,” Onnoghen’s lead lawyer Wole Olanipekun told tribunal chairman Umaru Danladi.
The tribunal has ordered the justice be properly served by Wednesday while hearings resume next Tuesday -- a ruling the defense said was unfair as the judge had not been given enough time to prepare for the trial.
On Monday, a federal court gave an order stopping the arraignment of the judge -- a ruling likely to cause another round of controversy as the Supreme Court once held that both the tribunal and the federal high are of the rank.
The planned arraignment of an incumbent chief judge for any crime is a first in Nigeria’s history, with the legal community split on whether the step was appropriate and expedient just a few weeks before the country’s election.