By Talatu Bala
Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen has resigned his position.
Onnoghen is facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, trial over alleged false assets declaration.
The Cable reports that Onnoghen turned in his resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday evening, a day after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended that he be compulsorily retired for misconduct.
By virtue of section 306 of the 1999 constitution, his resignation takes immediate effect.
Section 306 says “(1) Save as otherwise provided in this section, any person who is appointed, elected or otherwise selected to any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the authority or person by whom he was appointed, elected or selected. (2) The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”
The resignation, The Cable reports, was the “best possible option” for Onnoghen under the current circumstance.
It is on record that Onnoghen’s retirement benefits in cash and kind would cost tax payers about N2.5 billion.
As part of the package for a retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300% of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life.
Just like state governors, a retired chief justice is entitled to a number of domestic staff and sundry allowances for personal upkeep.
It could be recalled that Onnoghen closed his defence at the CCT and the tribunal is expected to give its judgment at the next sitting on April 15.
But for the crisis, Onnoghen, who is 68, was due for retirement in 2020.
If the “soft landing” option is favoured by Buhari, the EFCC may not proceed with filing criminal charges while the case at the CCT could become academic because the major punishment for Onnoghen would have been his removal from office.
He could be banned from holding public office for 10 years, while his assets believed to have been acquired illegitimately will be confiscated.