The Danladi Umar-led Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday fixed April 15 for adoption of final addresses by parties in the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on charges of false and non-declaration of assets.
The three-man bench fixed the date for the pre-judgment proceedings after Onnoghen closed his case with only one defence witness who had testified on Monday.
Before adjourning the case on Wednesday, the tribunal chairman, Umar, gave the defence up till Monday, April 8, to file and serve its final address on the prosecution.
The prosecution was given up till Thursday, April 11, to respond.
Any further reply on points of law by the defence to the response of the prosecution must be filed by April 15, the tribunal chairman said.
Onnoghen’s lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN), had asked for 14 days to file the defendant’s final written address, but the ruling of the tribunal showed that the CCT wanted the case dispensed with earlier.
In shortening the period requested by the defence, the tribunal chairman said he had to give “regard to the purport of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.”
The Wednesday’s sudden closure of defence’s case came as a surprise as the defendant had, only on Monday, indicated through his lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), that he would be calling “two or three witnesses.”
Only one of the witnesses, Mr. Lawal Busari, Onnoghen’s driver since 1999, had testified at the previous proceedings on Monday.
In addition, the defence had, on Monday, applied for and caused the Danladi Umar-led CCT to issue a subpoena to be served on an officer of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mrs. Theresa Nwafor, summoning her to appear on Wednesday to testify as the second defence witness.
It was not clear if Nwafor was present at the tribunal when Onnoghen’s lead defence counsel for Wednesday’s proceedings, Chris Uche (SAN), informed the tribunal of the defence’s decision to close the defendant’s case.
This happened immediately after lawyers on both sides of the divide announced appearances on Wednesday.
Uche made no mention of Nwafor or any other proposed defence witness.
Resting the case of the defence without the defendant himself testifying, Uche said, “My lords, today is for continuation of trial.”