Adegboyega Awomolo, lead counsel to Walter Onnoghen suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), has stated that the embattled CJN never resigned from his position but only retired.
Awomolo, who spoke in an interview with journalists over at the weekend, noted that Onnoghen sent his notice of retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari in line with constitutional provisions.
According to him, “What he has done is to send his notice of retirement to the President. And he has done so, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
“His position from day one has been that it is only the NJC that can discipline him. Now that the NJC has spoken, out of respect for the NJC and the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Nigerian Judiciary, he sent his letter of retirement, not resignation. He never resigned.
“All he has done is to send a letter to the President, saying thank you. I have served this country for about 32 years. I want to retire. That’s all he has done,” Awomolo said.
A number of allegations, contained in a six-count charge of false assets declaration, were brought against Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
His suspension generated outcry and condemnation among Nigerians and senior lawyers who stated that only a two-thirds majority of the Senate could make such recommendation.
Onnoghen, was appointed justice of the Supreme Court in 2005 and recommended for the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria on October 6, 2016, by the NJC under its erstwhile leader, Mahmud Mohammed.
He was, however, not confirmed by the Senate until March 7, 2017, due to the reluctance of President Muhammadu Buhari to submit his name to the Senate for confirmation.
At the time of filing filing this report, the Supreme Court and the National Judiciary Commission (NJC) had denied knowledge of Onnoghen’s retirement.
The Director of Information, Supreme Court, Festus Akande, stated there was no record to show that Onnoghen had thrown in the towel.
“Nothing like that happened, it is still a rumour now, I also read it. As of Thursday evening when I left office nothing like that happened”, he said.
Also when contacted, Director of Information, Nigeria Judicial Council, Soji Oye, said the council has not received notice of Onnoghen’s resignation/retirement.
Iniobong Iwok with agency report