The Chief Justice of Nigerian Walter Onnoghen is currently absent at the Code of Conduct Tribunal where his trial over a false declaration of asset has just commenced.
it was gathered that proceedings into the matter kicked off as the chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, arrived the tribunal in company of two other members presiding over the case.
14.33: Following the agreement by the counsels, the hearing the matter has been adjourned to Monday, January 28, for hearing on the application on the jurisdiction of CCT to be determined before matter proceeds.
14.27: Speaking after the decision and opinions raised by his colleagues, the CCT chairman notes that issues of jurisdiction is so important that it goes to the root of the matter.
Danladi also added that an issue of jurisdiction must be heard before any other application as requested by the Prosecution Team. He is inquires from both counsels if an adjournment to Friday, January 25, would be good for the parties involved. Both counsels agrees that the matter be adjourned to Monday January 28, for hearing on the application on the jurisdiction of the CCT.
14.21: Further in his reaction, Olanipekun infers that he wants to file a case on the counter-affidavit and service to the client including other issues. He said there is little or no time to continue on the issue of jurisdiction at CCT. Olanipekun also asked for an adjournment on the matter.
14.13: In her own opinion, the third judge on the matter opined that she supports the ruling of her second colleague. The decision of the third judge brings the matter to two members of the three-man CCT panel against one judge – the chairman.
14. 08: However, a second member of the Tribunal in a different view says irrespective of the powers of CCT, all judgments against the Code of Conduct Tribunal must be obeyed as issued by different courts. “The CCT cannot operate in isolation. Judgments of court of competent jurisdiction, where they subsist, must be obeyed. “This matter should hereby adjourned sine dine until all issues related to jurisdiction are settled,” the second CCT judge said.
13: 59 pm: “The argument of the Defence Counsel that the case should be adjourned sine dine in view of other cases instituted in other courts is hereby refused. The Defence should continue its case against the CCT on the issues of jurisdiction,” Danladi said.
13.51 pm: Danladi said the ruling by courts including the National Industrial Court is not binding on the CCT.
According to him, the tribunal is empowered by 1999 Constitution, amended to deal with all issues referred to it by CCB only.
The chairman also said that the Tribunal has unqualified jurisdiction to hear all cases referred to it by CCB. He added that the Tribunal also has coordinate jurisdictions with Federal High Court and National Industrial Court while orders obtained by “busy bodies” are not binding.
13. 49 pm: Hearing on Onnoghen alleged false declaration of asset resumes after a one-hour adjournment by the chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar.
The hearing resumed with three members of the tribunal who according to Danladi would all read their individual decisions beginning. The reading of the decisions of the judges would begin with that of the chairman.
12.22 am: The CCT chairman adjourns the matter for one hour before it returns to give judgment on whether the case should be adjourned sine die due to “lack of jurisdiction and court judgments”, as requested by the defence team.
12.20 am: The defence further prayed the tribunal to adjourn the matter sine die. “May we urge the honourable Tribunal to adjourn this matter sine dine.” Olanipekun pleads.
12.00 am: He further disagrees with the prosecutor that Justice Onnoghen in his earlier judgment had cautioned that CCT should not be seen as a superior court in the 2018 FG Vs Bukola Saraki’s case.
“It is not for the prosecutor to state here at the Tribunal that the judgments of other courts have no effect on the CCT. He should go to those courts and challenge their powers to issue such orders that status quo be maintained,” Olanipekun warns
11.58 am: Also acknowledging that the CJN has been duly served, the defence lead counsel insists that in the absence of a valid court order stating that the CCT has jurisdiction to hear the case, any actions undertaken by CCT will be resorting to self-help.
11.55 am: In his objection, the defence counsel, Olanipekun says that the CCT has no jurisdiction whatsoever to entertain the matter. Olanipekun said if the CCT cannot entertain the matter between the FG and Justice Onnoghen, how can the Tribunal issue a bench warrant when its power to hear the case has been challenged.
11.50 am: Going further, the prosecution says it has the powers to seek for a bench warrant of arrest to be issued against Justice Onnoghen for absenting himself to take his plea (plead guilty or not guilty) “but I won’t for now”. The prosecution team said it will only seek a continuation of the matter for now.Seeks continuation of case.
11.44 am: Umar also submitted that the Independence of the CCT has already been established in the case between the FG and the Senate President Bukola Saraki in 2018.
11.40 am: He also said that the prosecution is ready to file an application asking Onnoghen to step down as CJN and chairman NJC.
According to Umar, Onnoghen stepping down will ensure a smooth trial at the CCT since the tribunal is not subject to a Federal High Court or the National Industrial Court.
11.38 am: Umar quoting the CJN in a previous judgement he delivered said the Code of Conduct Tribunal is not subject to the powers of any other court in the land hence Olanipekun’s call for other judgments to be respected is null.
11.35 am: Following submissions made by the defence counsel, the prosecution team led by Aliyu Umar says with the absence of the accused, the prosecution has the right to ask that an arrest warrant be served on the CJN.
11:30 am: “May I ask the Tribunal to effect, give effect to these orders which are subsisting and also respect the hierarchy of courts esp.
Court of Appeal which has been adjourned to January 24, 2019…and adjourn this proceedings sine die,” Olanipekun pleads.
11.25 am: Olanipekun in his argument submits that it will amount to judicial rascality if a court of coordinate jurisdiction is aware of restraining orders on a case but goes on to hear such without awaiting the petitions against it which primarily borders on lack of jurisdiction.
11.13 am: The Senior Advocate of Nigeria continue to explain to the tribunal that the service of all court judgments asking for status quo be maintained “as at morning of January 14th, 2019″ have been served on CCT, FG, AGF, CCB and all parties involved in the matter against his client.
11. 08 am: Olanipekun further informs the CCT that the National Industrial Court had earlier given a restraining order restricting Tribunal from going ahead on the matter.
He said the NIC order that the case between the FG and Onnoghen be stalled pending hearing of the substantive suit before it.
10.43 am: Olanikpekun also noted that a Federal High Court had given an order urging all parties involved in the matter to maintain status quo pending motion on notice on the hearing which has been slated for January 28.
EMPTY DOCK AS ONNOGHEN IS ABSENT AT CCT: Proceedings kick off with CCT Chairman Danladi Umar and two other members presiding at resumed hearing of #FGNvsONNOGHEN. But accused Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is absent at the tribunal for the second time. @UnlockTheNow pic.twitter.com/xpj6UEoxeB
— Sumner Shagari Sambo (@Sumner_Sambo) January 22, 2019
Meanwhile, the federal government had reportedly filed a motion at the CCT seeking the removal of Justice Onnoghen as the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The motion was filed by Musa Ibrahim and Fatima Danjuma Ali on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation on Thursday, January 17.
The move, according to the government, is aimed at ensuring that Onnoghen is not a judge in his case and that the next in line of seniority, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, becomes the acting CJN pending the determination of the substantive suit.
However, in a recent move a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja restrained President Muhammadu Buhari and others from removing the Onnoghen as CJN. Justice Inyang Ekwo on Monday, January 17, ordered the parties to maintain status quo over the moves to remove the CJN while the AGF had on Friday,
January 18, filed an application asking the court to order Justice Onnoghen to step aside as the CJN and the chairman of NJC.
In the application, the AGF also called for a hand over over these offices to the next senior judge to avoid creating a vacuum.