A judge on Wednesday ordered Nigeria’s most senior police officer to arrest the country’s chief justice, after he was suspended on charges of breaching asset declaration rules. The chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, issued the demand after judge Walter Onnoghen again failed to appear at the hearing to formally enter a plea.
Mr Onnoghen was charged last month with failing to declare foreign currency bank accounts, in contravention of rules governing declaration of assets for public officials.
President Muhammadu Buhari then suspended and replaced him, prompting claims of executive meddling in the judiciary just before elections where Mr Onnoghen could hear any appeals.
Mr Umar insisted last week the judge should appear before him on Wednesday. But he was forced to adjourn the case as Mr Onnoghen was again a no-show.
“The Inspector General of Police (Mohammed Adamu) is hereby ordered to arrest and bring the defendant unfailingly on the next sitting of the court on Friday,” he added.
Mr Buhari’s opponents have suspected the suspension of Mr Onnoghen is politically motivated, as his Supreme Court has overturned a number of corruption convictions.
The official complaint about the bank accounts was also made by a former Buhari spokesman.
Under Nigeria’s constitution, only parliament can approve a request to remove the chief justice by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
Mr Onnoghen and Mr Umar are also facing hearings at the National Judicial Council, the statutory body that oversees the appointment and discipline of judges. It sits next on Tuesday.
Mr Buhari is seeking a second term of office at polls on Saturday in what is expected to be a close race between him and the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar.