Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The Federal High Court in Abuja has stopped the Federal Government’s plan to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
-Onnoghen Comes Hard On FG, Says “You’ve No Powers To Try Me At CCT”.
The Federal Government through the Code of Conduct Bureau filed six counts of non – declaration of assets against the CJN on Friday.
He was due for arraignment before the CCT on Monday but he was absent from court.
But ruling on two separate ex parte applications on Monday, Justice N. E
Maha, ordered parties to maintain status quo till January 17.
He ruled in the two different suits that the defendants should be served with all the papers filed and they should appear in court at the next hearing.
One of the two suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was filed by incorporated trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
Those joined as defendants in the suit , the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Chairman of CCT, Danladi Umar; the National Judicial Council, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The other suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was filed by the incorporated trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management.
The suit has as the defendants , Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malami; the CCT, the CCB, the Chairman of CCT, Umar; and the Inspector-General of Police, Idris .
While the ex parte application in the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was moved by Mr. R. A Lawal-Rabana(SAN), before Justice Maha on Monday, the ex parte application filed in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was moved by Mr. Jeph Njikonye.
The applications were being filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja while the CCT proceedings where Onnoghen was being expected to be arraigned was ongoing.
Justice Onnoghen was however absent at the CCT proceedings forcing the tribunal to adjourn till January 22.
But Justice Maha ruled at the Federal High Court on Monday that no steps should be taken in respect of the trial until January 17 when all parties to the two suits should return to court for the hearing of the plaintiffs’ motion on notice.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, today, challenged the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, to try him over failure to declare his assets.
CJN Onnoghen who stalled his planned arraignment following his refusal to appear before the panel tribunal, was however represented by a consortium of 89 lawyers that comprised of 46 SAN.
The legal team, which was led by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, told the tribunal that their appearance at the proceeding was “in protest.”
Olanipekun told the tribunal that the CJN has already filed a motion dated January 14, to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the charges FG levelled against him.
“My lord, we are not just challenging jurisdiction, we are even challenging the jurisdiction of this tribunal to even sniff that charge. We have served the Complainant/Respondent”, Olanipekun submitted.
Though the said motion was not moved, nevertheless, a member of the team who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said the CJN would capitalise on FG’s failure to channel the petition against him, as well as the outcome of the investigation that was purportedly conducted on his assets declaration forms by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to the National Judicial Council, NJC, before it rushed the case to the CCT.
The CJN is contending that FG’s failure to abide by existing judicial precedent as encapsulated in a recent Appeal Court’s decision in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), to the effect that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer, must first be reported to and handled by the NJC, pursuant to the provisions of the laws.
He argued that only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer could prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed to initiate a criminal proceeding.
Consequently, placing reliance on a recent decision of the CCT on a similar charge FG lodged against another Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, the CJN’s legal team, maintained that FG’s decision to sideline the NJC, stripped the tribunal of its jurisdiction to entertain the instant case.