The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was absent when his corruption trial commenced at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on Monday, January 14, 2019.
When his case, marked CCT/ABJ/01/19, commenced at 10am after the arrival of the Justice Danladi Umar-led panel, the head of Nigeria's judiciary was nowhere to be found.
However, the arraignment commenced as the Aliyu Umar-led prosecution team assured the CCT that the defendant had been served with the charges and summons.
The defence team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) was present in court when the arraignment commenced.
The CCT slammed corruption charges against Onnoghen following a petition accusing him of asset declaration offences. He stands accused of failing to declare a series of bank accounts, denominated in local and foreign currencies.
Onnoghen, Nigeria's 17th Chief Justice, is facing six charges of non and fraudulent declaration of assets.
During proceedings on Monday, Olanipekun, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), challenged the tribunal's jurisdiction to even entertain the case.
"You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter," he told the three-member panel.
He said allegations of a crime against a serving judge should have first been entertained by the National Judicial Council (NJC) before other federal agencies can hope to prosecute for such allegations. He further said the CJN has not been given enough time to properly prepare a defence before he was asked to appear before the tribunal.
While insisting that Onnoghen must appear before the panel to enter his plea, Danladi Umar said he would hear the application challenging the tribunal's jurisdiction during the next hearing scheduled for January 22, 2019.