Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Sunday night said he has accepted the voluntary retirement of the country’s top judge accused of not declaring his asset.
Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said Walter Onnoghen’s retirement is effective from May 28, 2019.
“President Buhari has accepted the voluntary retirement from service of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, effective from May 28, 2019,” presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
Sources said Onnoghen resigned in April, less than two months after he was charged with non-declaration of assets that government critics said was politically motivated.
He was convicted and sacked as the chief justice by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on April 18. He was also stripped of all benefits attached to former offices he held.
Onnoghen also lost funds in five bank accounts traced to him and has been barred from holding public office for the next ten years.
His appeal of the conviction was dismissed.
Buhari suspended Onnoghen just weeks before elections in February, prompting outrage and claims that the president was trying to manipulate the judiciary.
Buhari said in January that apart from the “grievous” allegations in a petition against Onnoghen, “the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.”
He said Onnoghen’s excuse that the non-declaration was due to mistake and forgetfulness was not known to law.
As head of the Supreme Court, Onnoghen could have ruled on any disputes relating to the election, which saw Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), win a second term of office.
His beaten rival, Atiku Abubakar, from the Peoples Democatic Party (PDP), has launched a legal challenge to the result, after calling the election a “sham”.
Onnoghen was charged with failing to declare foreign currency bank accounts, in contravention of rules governing declaration of assets for public officials.
Buhari then suspended and replaced him, prompting accusations of executive over-reach and even an attempted “coup” against the judiciary. Lawyers protested on the streets.
A request to remove the chief justice normally has to be approved with a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
Buhari expressed frustration that the Supreme Court had overturned a number of corruption convictions, including of some opposition politicians.