Alex Adum Esq, former Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice has that the prosecution of immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, after his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) would amount to double jeopardy.
He insisted that the CCT be allowed to complete it’s work and no matter the outcome of the case at the VCT, the matter be laid to rest.
Speaking to newsmen on Sunday, Adum said that most lawyers believe that the former CJN did not commit any infractions against the law but was blackmailed into resigning his appointment by the Presidency.
He argued that receiving goodwill from persons who sought to extend such to public office holders who do not solicit for it was not an offence.
According to him, it is wrong to prosecute him at the CCT and then prefer secondary charges against him in a regular court, insisting it was a legal position.
He observed that “If it (goodwill extended to Onnoghen) were a bribe, I don’t think; and there is a bit of commonsense in these things; will you say a CJN is so petty to be collecting a bribe of N300, 000 and even five hundred thousand?
“Even as a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Buhari gets gifts; good will gifts from people. It may not be direct deposits into his accounts, in the manner in which it happened in the case of the CJN, but I can tell you that people buy shoes for the President, people buy wrist watches, brocade for the president; cows and even perfumes. These are regular gifts that people give out to people.
“So, will you prosecute the President because he sat in his office and someone felt that it is Christmas, New year or Sallah and let me extend a hand of goodwill to the President?
“So, you must set examples that you will be able to follow in other systems and we must set examples that will show us as people who are consistent in the things that we do. We can’t set examples for only one particular individual.”
He further stated that “Frankly, Onnoghen has been forced to resign on account of the blackmail of the executive, particularly, the President.
“But that does not make him guilty; circumstances forced him to resign and he is currently being prosecuted at the CCT, it’s important to allow the CCT to complete it’s work.
“After the prosecution, whichever way the matter goes, bringing another prosecution in the name of the same charges, because Onnoghen has this xyz amount of money in his bank account; he has this number of xyz assets that he didn’t declare would be superfluous.
“And for many of us who are lawyers, we do not believe that Onnoghen committed any infractions against the law because if you look at Section 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act, it says that where someone has made a declaration and his declaration is subject to scrutiny and certain assets are not declared; the law allows that where you make declaration and you forget to include some of your assets and your attention is drawn after scrutiny by the CCB and you honestly write in admission to the noninclusion of any of those assets. The law says that is sufficient a defense and you should not be prosecuted before the CCT.”
Adum summed it up by saying, “Sincerely speaking, if it’s in respect of the assets declaration charge which the man (Onnoghen) is being prosecuted; and as you know the CCT is a quasi judicial tribunal and the principle of law is that no one should suffer double jeopardy.
“So you can’t prosecute him at the CCT on the asset declaration charge and now go to a regular court for instance, to prefer secondary charges against him.
“So legally speaking, the CJN ought not to be prosecuted on the same charge in another court. That’s a legal position.”
He however lamented that “He (Onnoghen) is being prosecuted for doing what the law says he should do”; that is by updating his assets declaration.