Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman threatens to jail journalists who misreport Onnoghen trial for 28 years

CODE of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) chairman Danladi Umar has warned journalists covering the ongoing trial of the suspended chief judge of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen that he would not hesitate to send them to jail for 28 years if they publish false news.


In January this year, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the embattled Justice Onnoghen and replaced him with Justice Tanko Mohammed, who was sworn-in as the acting chief judge of Nigeria (CJN). Over recent months, Justice Onnoghen has been involved in intense political jockeying with the government that involved him being charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) with false asset declaration.


Last Friday, Justice Onnoghen appeared before the CTT to answer the charges in what has become a messy case involving dozens of law suits. During the hearing, the federal government produced its first witness in the case James Opala, a CCB senior investigation officer, who was a member of a team of investigators that uncovered alleged infractions in Justice Onnoghen's asset declaration forms.


Reacting to sensational reporting of the case so far, Mr Umar has threatened to imprison journalists who misrepresent the ongoing proceedings. In response to what he described as some newspapers’ distortion and misrepresentation of Monday’s proceedings of the trial, Mr Umar said any journalist who commits such infraction again might have to remain in prison until his retirement in 28 years’ time.


Mr Umar said: “Henceforth, any journalist carrying concocted or discredited statement which is not adduced before this tribunal, I will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law heavily on the person. The journalist will languish there and may remain there until I retire, that is about 28 years from now.


“The person will be summarily sent to prison because that is contempt. It does not matter whether the contempt is committed in facie curiae before the court, or ex-facie curiae outside the court.”


Speaking in court, Mr Umar, who brought copies of the newspapers that published the stories he complained about, made the remarks at the beginning of today's proceedings. Meanwhile, the prosecution began hearing from Awal Yakassai, a retired director at the Code of Conduct Bureau, who was its second witness, today.