The immediate-past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has expressed surprise about how he was suddenly told that he had been removed from office without doing any wrong.
He did not name the personalities involved in the drama.
Onnoghen said nobody told him anything about his offence when he was told that he had been removed.
Onnoghen, who clocked 70 on Tuesday, his projected retirement day if he had run his tenure as the CJN and judicial career in full, spoke at a low-key birthday dinner held at his Asokoro, Abuja home.
Acting on a controversial ex parte order issued by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), suspended Onnoghen as the CJN on January 26, 2019 and replaced him with the incumbent CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, then in acting capacity.
Onnoghen never returned to office till his conviction by the CCT and his voluntary retirement in April 2019.
“How can you just wake up one morning and they say you have been removed from office. Nobody is ready to tell you anything, all everybody was just saying is resign, resign.
“What have I done?”
Onnoghen who commended his legal team that defended him during his travails, maintained that he lived an upright life throughout his career as a judicial officer.
“You did not have to know my wife, my children or anybody close to me to get justice,” he said.
He said within two years of being in the saddle, he brought a lot of innovation and reform but which “have been abandoned”.
A former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Kumai Akaahs, the Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, and many other dignitaries paid glowing tributes to him at his 70th birthday dinner on Tuesday.
The event was also attended by Onnoghen’s predecessor, Justice Mahmud Mohammed (retd), who came in the middle of the programme and left when it was about ending.
Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and Chief Rafiu Lawal-Rabana (SAN), who led the legal team which defended Onnoghen at both the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the National Judicial Council in the twilight of his abruptly ended career, also hailed the ex-CJN as a man integrity.
Justice Akaahs who served as a Justice of the Supreme Court under Onnoghen as the CJN, said the things said about Onnoghen during his travails were concoction.
He said, “I dare say that history will be the ultimate judge. I am welcoming him to the club because he is my younger brother even though I worked under him.”
The Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Zannah, who also served under Onnoghen as a member of the NJC, described the ex-CJN as a great man, honest and straight forward person.
Lawal-Rabanna who led the defence team of the ex-CJN at the NJC, said, “All of us standing before you believe in him because we saw him as a man of integrity. We saw him as a man who believes in principle. That is why till today, the NJC report has not come out because they found nothing.”
NBA President, Apkata, said the lawyers’ umbrella body remained extremely proud of Onnoghen.
He said, “The NBA will remain extremely proud of you. We hold you in the highest of esteem.”
He charged Onnoghen to tell his story by writing a book.