The immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria(CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has been barred from travelling out of the country by the federal government.
According to reports, the move may be part of a fresh probe into Onnoghen’s affairs. Onnoghen was convicted for not declaring his assets by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in April.
An internal report issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service(NIS), stated that Onnoghen, his wife and daughter were attempting to travel to Accra, Ghana when they were accosted by immigration officials.
The report stated: “On November 11, 2019, retired Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was attempting to travel to Accra, Ghana. He was in company of his wife, Nkoyo and daughter.
“His passport, with number A50445233, was flagged because Justice Onnoghen’s name was on the watch list. The passport is currently in custody of the NIS.”
It was gathered that the passport seized from Onnoghen was not a diplomatic passport but the ordinary green passport.
An immigration officer told The Punch that the directive to seize Onnoghen’s passport came from the Presidency.
“Justice Onnoghen will have to meet with the Presidency to know why his passport was seized. We are only following instructions,” the officer said.
The medium quoted a top judicial officer as saying that Onnoghen’s decision to challenge his conviction by the CCT might have angered the presidency.
The Appeal Court had condemned the presidency for the manner in which the trial of Onnoghen was conducted.
In a judgment by the three-man bench led by Justice Stephen Adah, it was unanimously ruled that the CCT’s ex parte order breached the ex-CJN’s right to a fair hearing.
While reading the lead judgment, Justice Adah stated that the proceedings of the CCT shouldn’t have been conducted “in a shady or clandestine manoeuvre” the way the ex parte order was obtained by the prosecution.
However, the court said it could not upturn Onnoghen’s conviction since the trial had already taken place.
Onnoghen, who was CJN from March 1, 2017 to April 5, 2019, was suspended by Buhari in January, a few weeks to the presidential election, on allegations that he failed to declare five bank accounts in his asset declaration form at the Code of Conduct Tribunal(CCT).
The CCT ordered Onnoghen’s sacking and barred him from holding public office for 10 years.
The National Judicial Commission(NJC) subsequently recommended his retirement with full benefits and Onnoghen immediately complied and tendered his resignation before the presidency on April 5.