High Court orders can’t stop us from Onnoghen's trial - CCT — Nigerian Pilot News
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High Court orders can’t stop us from Onnoghen’s trial – CCT

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Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, yesterday ruled that orders made by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court of Nigeria stopping the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, are not binding on it.

The CCT held that the courts are of coordinate jurisdiction with the CCT and so lack powers to issue orders to the tribunal.

The CCT chairman, Danladi Umar, said this while rejecting a motion by Onnoghen asking the tribunal to adjourn indefinitely based on orders made by the high courts and the NICN that parties must maintain status quo.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, held that all orders of court restraining or stopping it from proceeding with the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, are not binding on it.

The CCT in a split decision of two to one, discountenanced the orders of the court on the grounds that the orders were made by courts of equal jurisdiction and the CCT is a special Court empowered to handle exclusively the issues relating to assets declaration.

The position of the CCT was made by the Chairman, Danladi Umar and was supported by Justice Juli Anabor, who aligned herself with the chairman’s position while Justice Williams Atedze gave the dissenting judgment.

Umar had in his ruling held that those who obtained the orders of the High Court were busy bodies because they are not parties in the matter at the tribunal.

He maintained that the orders of the High Courts and that of the National Industrial Court are null and void on account of being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, adding that section 246 makes it crystal clear that the tribunal has unquantified jurisdiction to hear any assets declaration case as may be referred to it by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.

Umar also disagreed with the request to adjourn the trial Sine Die, on the grounds of a pending appeal at the Court of Appeal, adding that section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, did not Make provisions for stay of proceedings in a criminal matter and that in the instant case, it shall not be entertained.

Atedze in his dissenting ruling held that it would result to judicial anarchy for the tribunal to proceed with the trial in view of the four subsisting court orders and the pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.

According to him, orders are binding on the tribunal until they are set aside in view of section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution which allows court orders to be enforced in all parts of the county, stressing that the CCT cannot operate in isolation.

“Having summarized argument from both parties, it is my submission that CCT as a creation of law is bound by the existing court orders to avoid judicial anarchy”, he held.

The member, who further held that the issue of jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the charge against CJN must first be resolved, held that status quo must be maintained by adjoining proceedings sine die until all contending issues are resolved.

Although the Chairman ordered that the motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal be moved immediately, counsel to the defendant, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN however, informed the tribunal that the response of the complainant, Federal government was served on him late Monday and as such needed time to study the response and then filed reply on point of law.

Counsel to the Federal government, Aliyu Umar, agreed that the government’s response was served late on the defendant, prompting the Chairman to adjourned further proceedings till Monday, January 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has fixed Thursday (January 24) for the commencement of hearing in the appeal filed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen against his planned trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.

A three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Abdu Aboki, after hearing preliminary submissions from lawyer to the CJN, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and Emmanuel Omonuwa, Director Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice (for the respondent – the Federal Republic of Nigeria), adjourned to January 24.

The court adjourned principally for the hearing of a motion on notice, filed by the CJN, for an injunction restraining the CCT from conducting further proceedings in respect of the charge against him pending the determination of the appeal.

In a related development, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was, again, absent, as his trial resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT in Abuja, yesterday.

Counsels to CJN Onnoghen at the inaugural sitting of CCT had defended his absence, arguing that he had not been served summons to appear in court.

Consequently, the CCT ordered that he is properly served, and he was subsequently served summons days after.

However, an Abuja High Court had already ruled against CJN Onnoghen’s CCT trial.

Onnoghen is facing trial over an alleged false declaration of his assets.

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