(Bloomberg) — The trial of Nigeria’s suspended chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, on charges of lodging a false declaration of his assets, can go ahead, an appeals court ruled.
The unanimous decision by the three judges at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, the capital, on Wednesday means Onnoghen’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend him last week, can resume. It lifted a temporary stay of proceedings. The court is scheduled to make a final ruling on Feb. 4 whether the CCT has jurisdiction in the case.
Buhari’s decision to replace Onnoghen with the second-ranking Supreme Court Justice just before the Feb. 16 general elections prompted condemnation by the leading opposition challenger to the president’s re-election, Atiku Abubakar, and the legal community because any disputes over the vote are likely to go before the court. The U.S. and European Union said Onnoghen’s suspension could undermine the vote.
“We will continue to urge the federal government to reverse the decision in regards to the suspension,” Nigerian Bar Association President Paul Usoro said by phone after the ruling.
Buhari said the Code of Conduct Tribunal ordered him to suspend Onnoghen until the trial is over.
The Senate has asked the Supreme Court to rule whether Buhari breached the constitution by replacing Onnoghen.
Onnoghen is also challenging the suspension at the appeals court in Abuja, Punch newspaper reported Tuesday, citing court documents. His lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, didn’t answer calls or respond to a text message for comment.