The Presidency and its team of prosecutors have debunked claims that a deal has been struck to give a “soft landing” to Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, following his resignation, a report has revealed.
Following the resignation of Justice Onnoghen on Thursday, speculations arose that a deal might have been brokered between the presidency and the CJN’s lawyers to ease his way into retirement.
Read Also: Onnoghen Submits Resignation Letter As CJN – Report
Some reports had even suggested that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo played a major role in facilitating the supposed deal.
However, an official in the presidency quashed the speculation, saying the Federal Government did not agree to a deal with either lawyers to the suspended CJN or the jurist directly, the Punch reports.
The source added that the allegations levelled against Justice Onnoghen were heavy, adding that he waited for the National Judicial Council – the disciplinary body for judicial officers- to decide on the case before resigning.
“There is no such thing that the Vice President brokered any deal that made the CJN to resign. It is not true,” the anonymous source said.
“There is absolutely no deal at all. What I know is that the CJN waited for NJC before he chose to resign.
“The allegations against him were clearly weighty,” he said.
Read Also: Onnoghen’s Resignation: I’m Not Sure If Buhari Has Been Notified, Says Adesina
Also speaking, Aliyu Umar, the lead prosecuting council of the Federal Government in the case against Justice Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), said he has not received any information from Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation that a resolution has been reached.
He, however, admitted that a plea bargaining could be reached in the case.
“First of all, I am prosecuting this matter on behalf of the Code of Conduct Bureau, which means I’m under the control of the Attorney General of the Federation and I was even given a fiat by the Attorney General for the purpose of the prosecution,” Umar said.
“Up till this time (Saturday), nobody has confirmed to me that his Lordship has resigned. I only read it in the news.
“Then, concerning what you just told me about a deal, I don’t know anything about it.
“But you know under the Nigerian system, there is what we call plea bargain. But honestly, up till this time, the Attorney General has not told me anything. If that is the situation, I think the Attorney General will appear personally on April 15 when we are going back for our final addresses.
“But honestly I really don’t know; nobody has contacted me.”
The CJN’s resignation came a day after the NJC reportedly recommended his retirement from the bench of the Supreme Court.
He was, however, forced to retire a year earlier than expected as he is currently embroiled in a trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), bordering on alleged false declaration of assets.
He is currently facing a six-count charge after been accused by the Federal Government of allegedly failing to declare his assets, including three domiciliary accounts and two Naira-denominated bank accounts.
Justice Onnoghen has denied all the charges preferred against him.
It was reported that Justice Onnoghen’s retirement benefits in cash and kind, if approved by President Buhari, will be to the tune of about N2.5 billion, according to TheCable.
As part of the package for a retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300 per cent of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life.
However, it is yet unclear what would happen to the case at the CCT should the president approve the retirement, as well as an impending criminal case that may be instituted against the CJN by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).