South-South governors to beg President Buhari to accept Justice Onnoghen’s resignation letter

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Okon Efut, who led the former Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen’s defence team at Thursday’s judgment proceedings of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, has indicated that the conviction of the former CJN would be appealed at the Court of Appeal.

The South-south governors may have resolved to intervene in the resignation saga of the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The governors intend to meet President Muhammadu Buhari with a view to persuading him to accept Onnoghen’s resignation letter.

Buhari is yet to act on the April 4, 2019, letter or the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) that the CJN be compulsorily retired.

Onnoghen turned in his letter 24 hours after the NJC met and decided that he had to go having lost the moral authority to continue as CJN with the litany of allegations bordering on misconduct against him.

It was gathered that the majority of the South-South governors have bought the idea of intervening in the Onnoghen matter.

It was also learnt that Onnoghen actually attempted to negotiate his exit with three conditions before the NJC advised the President to retire him.

The presidency rejected the Onnoghen exit conditions and opted to see his trial through at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

One of the conditions was for the federal government to enter a nolle prosequi at the tribunal.

He also asked that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should discontinue his investigation/trial, and that his suspension be lifted to allow him to return to office after which he would voluntarily resign within four weeks.

On Thursday however, the tribunal convicted him for failing to declare his assets as required by law, and ordered his immediate removal from office as CJN.

Investigation revealed that the South-South governors, some of whom have no personal relationship with Onnoghen, have requested audience with Buhari.

The meeting was expected to be held last Thursday but the conviction of Onnoghen same day by the CCT caused a delay as one of the issues was overtaken by the judgment.

Sources said the governors are keen on getting a dignified exit for Onnoghen, who is from the geopolitical zone.

They were said to have consented to a ‘political solution’ to the CJN matter.

A source familiar with the development said: “The South-South governors want the presidency to close the chapter on Onnoghen by accepting his voluntary resignation/retirement. This is why they believe a political solution is better than this messy affair.

“They have sought audience with the President on how to find an amicable solution to the travails of Onnoghen.

“They are buying into the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to allow Onnoghen to retire with full benefits and retain his membership of the Council of State.

“They do not want the CCT matter to drag on for more months. They also do not want Onnoghen subjected to a separate trial by the EFCC on other allegations against him.”

It was unclear when the governors will meet the President again.

Before the conviction of the CJN on Thursday, he had resigned or retired after much pressure and following the decision of the NJC advising Buhari to retire him.

“The NJC decision shocked Onnoghen and he lost the last straws he was clinging to. At this point, he offered to resign/retire accordingly,” another source added.

The Presidency, in rejecting Onnoghen’s conditions for stepping down, believed that the law be allowed to run its course.

A government source said: “The conditions were untenable and the presidency told the intermediary that investigative reports on Onnoghen were awesome for three separate trials.

“This was how the negotiation deal collapsed and Onnoghen was left to bear his cross at the CCT. If the CJN had made some concessions, maybe his case would not have reached this level.”

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