Nigeria‘s top judge has been sacked by a tribunal that found him guilty of falsely declaring his assets.
Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen was banned from office for 10 years on Thursday and ordered to forfeit any assets he could not account for to the state.
Onnoghen’s suspension in January by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, just weeks before a presidential election, prompted allegations of interference in judicial matters.
The chief justice holds a key role in determining the outcome of Nigerian elections if the results are appealed by a candidate and a tribunal is formed.
A request to remove the chief justice usually requires the approval of two-thirds of the senate, but Buhari did not follow that process.
Onnoghen was tried for failing to divulge cash in five foreign bank accounts in contravention of rules governing the declaration of assets by public officials.
“The defendant has clearly contravened the code of conduct for public officers, and he is hereby convicted,” said Danladi Umar, chairman of the country’s ethics court.
Umar ordered that any cash found in Onnoghen’s foreign bank accounts be taken by the treasury.
“The money in the five accounts which the defendant has failed to declare and disclose its source, is hereby confiscated, seized and forfeited to the federal government,” Umar said.
After the ruling, Onnoghen’s lawyer, Okon Efut, said the process had not been fair.
He decried what he called the “unconstitutional” suspension of the judge in January, claiming it was the first step in what he said was a “premeditated” decision.
“Judgment had been passed before today,” Efut said.
As head of the supreme court, Onnoghen could have ruled on any disputes relating to the election, which saw Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), win a second term of office.
Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who lost to Buhari has launched a legal challenge to the result, after calling the election a “sham”.