ONNOGHEN SAGA: BECAUSE LAW IS A SPIDER WEB.
By Hammed J. Sulaiman.
One needn’t to blame; one needn’t to blame, apart from Nigerian laymen, some legal pundits and law students that have critically criticized Onnoghen, the number one Judicial Officer in the country, who was recently suspended from office following allegations of corruption regarding his none declaration of his full assets just before he took office and the eventual discovery of large sums of money in several accounts traced to him. One needn’t to blame some reasonable law students whose pens couldn’t withhold its semens, labeling some lawyers as magicians whom pedaling legal technicalities had beclouded their faces. One needn’t to wonder of high level of asininity currently in our judiciary, this is because law is a spider web.
It is as transparence as a glass now, that law or Nigerian law is spider web, only small insects could get caught. With this case of Onnoghen, apart from disruption and disrepute brought to the Judiciary, the jeers and ridiculous reactions of Nigerians had opened vault of seeing Judicial Officers as birds of the same feather, or should we talk of current mediocrity of our legal system vis-à-vis moral aspect! Federal government closes case against Onnoghen and accept Onnoghen’s counsels’ prayer of “no case of submission”. This new development of course, would stirred reactions amidst Nigerians; for our suspended Lordship had made a slight conditional confession of “forgetfulness and mistake” before the case continue to sail further.
Well, had our suspended Chief Justice, Walter Samuel N. Onnoghen know, he ought to have resigned, instead of succumbing to the feigned pillars of “go-ahead” and putting Nigerian judiciary to shame. Some reasonable Nigerians believed of course, that anybody of high status should always exhibit a high level of decency in his/her conduct and any feign ignorance is inexcusable for anybody of high standing! He ought to have resigned, like Kemi Adeosun with her NYSC saga. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance resigned from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari over the allegations that she forged her National Youth Service Corps certificate… “Fiam”, honour and applauses followed her! Her gesture shows that nobody is perfect, and mistake do accidentally happens… But if law at one’s instance turn to be hard, one ought not to be high, for the law is above one.
Even from the full text revealed, of the exact words of Onnoghen in response to the query of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), which filed a six-count charge against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), one can vividly expect Onnoghen to resign as many believed his morally obliged to do. The text encompassed ignorance and ignorance in law is inexcusable: “My Asset Declaration for Nos. SCN000014 and SCN.0000 5 were declared on the same day, 14th December, 2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of May, 2005… I did not include my Standard Chartered Bank Account in SCN. 000014 because I believed they were not opened during the period… I did not make a fresh declaration of assets after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN. 000015 was to cover the period… It is important to state that prior to my opening the US dollar account I had foreign currency which I kept at home due to the fact that there existed a government policy that proscribed the operation of foreign currency account by Public officers including judicial Officers… I cannot remember the total amount I had in reserve at the time…” and so forth and so forth.
But because Nigerian law appears to be a spider web – only small insects could get caught: there had been global interference; some Nigerian lawyers turned protesters, protesting on streets, in court’s premises – with placards; we read of NBA boycotting courts; we read of some SANs misleading public on judicial officers not to be public officers; we read of Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) not meant to try assets declaration case; we read of jurisdiction and court-absence brouhaha; the kerfuffle could also been seen from how legal firewoods mistook “Suspension” for “Removal”; the claiming of suspended CJN to firstly face Nigerian Judicial Commission (NJC) before any court; the condemnation of procedure used by the president; the hunting of judges or of anomic between lawyers; so far so bad we have heard and read!
There wouldn’t have been much fracas if its common man that committed this nature of offence… For example, lets put into consideration – some or a common public/civil servant forget or by any reason whatsoever committed a mistake to declare his assets, the webs of law will roast, twine him, silently, there won’t be any kerfuffle – why? Because he is a small insect!
It appeared much more funny to some Nigerians; how can some who claimed “forgetfulness and mistake” be alleging that Federal Government tampered with his assets declaration documents again – come forth again with “case of no submission”? But some Nigerians are waiting, patiently, perhaps those who have been melted with justice for false assets declaration. Perhaps those “small insects” who are powerless and lack strength and recognition, they are waiting to see how judiciary will heal herself after shooting herself. They are waiting and watching in seeing how long our suspended CJN will keep struggling to escape the webs of law. Funny; “this is Nigeria”.
©Hammed J. Sulaiman
Poet/Essayist/Writer, a Student of Law from the Most Peaceful University in Nigeria. Editor at Winsala Muses Ltd. Editor/Veteran Journalist with The Republican Online Newspaper.
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