Powerful friends of Onnoghen are negotiating a soft landing for him to gain in two ways-avoid jail and get his full retirement benefits…Buhari, we gathered is still ruminating over the option.
Onnoghen’s retirement benefits in cash and kind will cost tax payers about N2.5 billion.
As part of the package for a retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300% of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life.
Just like state governors, a retired chief justice is entitled to a number of domestic staff and sundry allowances for personal upkeep.
This package for judicial officers was put together by the NJC long before Onnoghen became the CJN in 2017.
However, if he is dismissed, he will not be entitled to any benefits.
Onnoghen chose the option of resignation as a measure of damage control.
Recall on Wednesday that the NJC had recommended the embattled CJN for compulsory retirement after deliberating on a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which alleges “financial impropriety, infidelity to the constitution and other economic and financial crimes related laws”.
Onnoghen, who denied all allegations, is also undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over charges of false asset declaration.
Onnoghen has closed his defence at the CCT and the tribunal is expected to give its judgment at the next sitting on April 15.
But for the crisis, Onnoghen, who is 68, was due for retirement in 2020.
If the “soft landing” option is favoured by Buhari, the EFCC may not proceed with filing criminal charges while the case at the CCT could become academic because the major punishment for Onnoghen would have been his removal from office.
He could be banned from holding public office for 10 years, while his assets believed to have been acquired illegitimately will be confiscated.