Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) due to be arraigned for alleged false assets declaration charges, was absent in court when his trial commenced on Monday morning.

Danladi Umar, the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman, called Onnoghen’s case at about 10:08 on Monday and the Chief Justice was absent.

Wole Olanipekun, who is leading a team of 46 other senior lawyers to enter defence for the Chief Justice, began by challenging the jurisdiction of the case.

“You have to first determine whether you have the jurisdiction to try this matter,”  Olanipekun said to the Tribunal Chairman.

Olanipekun said Onnoghen has not been indicted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) as legally required of serving judges before his matter was picked up by the tribunal following a petition filed by a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

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Olanipekun also said Onnoghen was not given enough time to prepare for his arraignment before being summoned by the tribunal.

The tribunal had summoned the CJN following a petition submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by a civil society group identified as the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI).

The Federal Government had demanded that Onnoghen recuse himself from his position as the head of the Supreme Court in order not to interfere with the trial.

His prosecution at the CCT was however met with a wave of criticism from the legal community and civil society organisations.

Governors of the South-South geopolitical zone had asked him to ignore the trial after an emergency meeting in Abuja Sunday.

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