Barring any last-minute changes, the defence team of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, will, on Monday, ask the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself from the trial.
The application for recusal will be based on the fact that Umar has been charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for fraud and thus cannot be trusted to deliver a fair judgement.
A top source said, “The CCT chairman has been acting in a way that suggests that we may not get a fair hearing. He is facing charges by the EFCC, which means his character and his ability to deliver justice is in question.
“It is very possible that he is even being blackmailed by those who want Onnoghen gone. So, what we want is for him to step aside. We will make that application on Monday all things being equal.”
The approach is similar to what Senate President Bukola Saraki did during his trial in 2016. However, Umar did not step aside because the EFCC had yet to charge him at the time.
However, the EFCC had, last year, filed fresh charges of fraud against Umar.
The charges were prepared by Festus Keyamo (SAN), an EFCC prosecutor and now the spokesman for the Buhari Campaign Organisation.
Umar was accused of collecting N10m from Rasheed Taiwo, a former Customs official who was facing false assets declaration charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sometimes in 2012.
The EFCC also accused him of receiving N1.8m of the N10m bribe sum through one of his personal assistants, Gambo Abdullahi.
The two counts of fraud contradicted Section 12(1) (a) and (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003, Keyamo stated in charge affidavit prepared on January 25 and stamped on February 2 at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The defence will also rely on a letter written by two other members of the CCT – Justice Robert Odu (retd.) and Justice Agwaza Atedze – asking former President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate the CCT chairman.
The letter, dated April 4, 2014, was addressed to Jonathan through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
In the letter titled, ‘N10m bribery allegation against the Chairman of the CCT’, the other CCT members said, “While we are not in a position to say whether or not the allegation is false (the chairman has vehemently denied the allegations), we wish to request that this allegation be investigated thoroughly and the findings be made public as soon as possible so as to restore the image of the tribunal.”