A group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, under the aegis of Justice Reform Project, have said the reported voluntary resignation of Justice Walter Onnoghen should not be the end of the corruption allegations leveled against him.
They said that, given the gravity of the allegations against the suspended Justice Onnoghen and his admission, the law should be made to take its course to show that it respects no one.
The SANs called on President Muhammadu Buhari to subject all other judges to the same type of probe that Onnoghen went through, so as to fish out all other judges living above their legitimate means.
In a statement on Tuesday, JRP, which consists of about 20 SANs, said it was important for Buhari to take this step in order to convince Nigerians that Onnoghen’s trial was not a politically-motivated witch-hunt and had no ethnic colouration.
The group said the details of the allegations of financial mismanagement which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission leveled against Onnoghen in the petition it submitted to the National Judicial Council, and Onnoghen’s response to the allegations, “raised significant questions about the financial practices of the Nigerian judiciary and the various heads of courts.”
It, therefore, called on Buhari not to limit the probe to Onnoghen.
The JRP said, “Beyond Honourable Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, the JRP believes the revelations that have been made in the course of this affair necessitate that urgent steps be taken to identify and sanction all other Nigerian judicial officers who are found to posses inexplicable wealth that cannot be reconciled with their legitimate income or their asset declarations, two of the allegations made against Justice Onnoghen.
“These steps are necessary for a variety of reasons. First, to ensure public confidence in the judiciary and disabuse the notion that all judicial officers in Nigeria are corrupt and that justice is for sale.
“Second, to disabuse the notion that Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen’s travails are a mere witch-hunt motivated by ethnic and political interests rather than the result of a genuine concern for sanitising and reforming the Nigerian judiciary.
“Third, to eliminate the suspicion that the executive arm of government is using the information it has access to, by virtue of its control over the apparatus of the state, to take selective action only against those judicial officers that fail to do its bidding.”
The SANs appealed to all lawyers in the country as well other members of the public not to hesitate to forward to relevant regulatory agencies corruption information on any judge they know.
They argued that there was a need for the judiciary to regulate itself, so as forestal the Onnoghen experience in the future.
The group said it was closely monitoring unfolding developments and would at the appropriate time make more recommendations for the reform of the justice sector.