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04 Feb 2019 15:03
People hold banners during a protest over the suspension of the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen. (Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)
Nigeria’s most senior judge, who has been controversially suspended on corruption charges, was ordered on Monday to appear in person at a tribunal hearing his case.
Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is facing allegations that he failed to declare foreign currency bank accounts, breaching rules governing public officials.
He has sent a team of lawyers to represent him at previous hearings.
But on Monday, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, said: “The presence of the defendant is needed at the tribunal.
“(A) plea must be taken before the defendant can raise any objection as to the competence of the charges or the jurisdiction of the court,” he added.
The case was adjourned until February 13 “so that all issues will be resolved while he (Onnoghen) is present”, Umar told the court.
Onnoghen was charged on January 12 then suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25 — a move that triggered accusations of government interference in the judiciary.
The case is politically charged as Onnoghen heads the Supreme Court, which would give a final ruling on any disputes arising from general elections due on February 16.
The suspension has been widely criticised by the opposition, lawyers and international community, including the European Union, the United States and Britain on the grounds of its timing.
The government has said the suspension is not linked to the election.
Former military ruler Buhari, 76, has been accused of overreaching his powers in bypassing parliament, which constitutionally has to sanction any suspension.
Buhari came to power in 2015 on a mandate to tackle corruption but has been accused of only targeting political opponents.
© Agence France-Presse
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