Nigerian Court Issues Arrest Warrant Against Chief Justice

(Bloomberg) -- A Nigerian court issued an arrest warrant against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, who’s on trial on charges of submitting a false declaration of his assets, just days before a general election.

Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman Danladi Umar Wednesday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the nation’s top judge to appear and make his plea on Friday. Onnoghen has been absent from hearings since the trial opened last month in the capital, Abuja. Umar said the police would carry out the warrant.

President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen on Jan. 25, citing an order from the CCT. That move, just weeks before the Feb. 16 presidential election, was criticized by the legal community, including the Nigerian Bar Association, which said it was contrary to constitutional provisions that all complaints against the chief justice must first be dealt with by the National Judicial Council.

The NJC has held meetings on the matter but it hasn’t issued a decision yet.

The U.S., the U.K. and the European Union have expressed concern that Buhari’s suspension of Onnoghen could harm the legitimacy of the election as the Supreme Court may adjudicate disputes arising from the vote.

The race between Buhari, a 76-year-old former general, and businessman and ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72, is expected to be tight.

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