ONNOGHEN’S NEGOTIATED RESIGNATION AWAITS BUHARI’S NEXT STEP

Walter Onnoghen

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Alex Enumah in Abuja
With the resignation of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, done and dusted, following the submission of his letter on Thursday, all the stakeholders in the long-winding drama are now awaiting the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari for his seal on the deal, which sources confirmed to THISDAY, was “negotiated.”
President Buhari is attending the World Economic Forum holding in Jordan and the Investment Summit scheduled to hold in Dubai. He is expected back in the country on Tuesday.
Onnoghen is currently being prosecuted by the federal government on a six count charge bordering on alleged failure to declare some of his assets in line with the provisions of the law for public officers. He was specifically accused of not declaring five of his accounts in Standard Chartered Bank located in Wuse Abuja.
Sources said key stakeholders negotiated a soft landing for the suspended CJN “to ensure that the Judiciary is not bruised.”
This, the source said, also resulted in the NJC recommending his compulsory retirement instead of a dismissal demanded by the Presidency.
The option of voluntary resignation by Onnoghen was also put forward by the stakeholders, which the suspended CJN quickly accepted.
“All the stakeholders are waiting for the arrival of the President to seal the deal. They are very hopeful that he would respond positively. They expect Buhari to either accept Onnoghen’s resignation or approve the compulsory retirement recommended by the NJC. Either is a soft landing for Onnoghen,” said another sources last night.
A member of Onnoghen’s legal team, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday afternoon on condition of anonymity, said: “The CJN has tendered his resignation letter. I spoke to him earlier today. I can confirm to you that he has resigned. But I don’t have his approval to formally speak to the press. Yes, he has resigned. He sent his letter to the President through the NJC.”
However, the Director of Information, NJC, Soji Oye in a telephone conversation with THISDAY said he could not confirm the report  of Onnoghen’s resignation.
Similarly, the Director of Information, Supreme Court of Nigeria, Festus Akande, told THISDAY that he was not aware of the resignation of the CJN, and dismissed it as mere rumour.
“As at the time I left the office yesterday, there was nothing like that. And I have called the office after the news broke, there is nothing like that”, Akande said.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal where Onnoghen is being prosecuted on the non-asset declaration charges had on April 3, adjourned till April 15 for parties to adopt their final written addresses as well as to fix a date for Judgment and ruling on other pending applications.
Onnoghen was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, 2019, 10 days after his trial commenced at the CCT, on the orders of the CCT.
The suspension order was sequel to an exparte application by the federal government, which prayed the CCT to suspend Onnoghen pending the determination of the trial.
The Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, in granting the exparte motion also ordered President Buhari to swear in the most senior to Onnoghen in the Supreme Court, Justice Tanko Muhammad as Acting CJN.
If his resignation is confirmed officially, by virtue of section 306 of the 1999 constitution, it will take immediate effect.
Section 306 (1)  stipulates: “Save as otherwise provided in this section, any person who is appointed, elected or otherwise selected to any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the authority or person by whom he was appointed, elected or selected. (2) The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”