Friday, November 15, 2019
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Onnoghen: CCT Chair Risks Jail Over Contempt

A show of power looms between the Federal High Court, Abuja and the Code of Code Tribunal (CCT) over the latter’s arraignment and trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.

 

Onnoghen was docked by the CCT last Friday for non-declaration of assets, which also granted him bail on self-recognition.

 

But, the matter has taken a new development as a contempt charge has been filed against the CCT chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, before the Federal High Court, Abuja over his trial of the suspended CJN.

 

The suit is at the instance of the incorporated trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative which filed a notice of consequence of disobedience of court order against Umar.

 

According to the notice, the CCT chair allegedly disobeyed the order of Justice N. E, Maha of 14th January, 2019, which ruled that parties should maintain status quo until January 17.

 

The contempt charge reads: “That unless you obey the command/order contained in the order of Hon. Justice N. E. Maha of the Federal High Court dated 14th January, 2019 (which was duly served on you and copy thereof as attached to this notice), you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”

 

Also, an affidavit of service, deposed to by the court bailiff, Mr. Bright Adesiyan, indicated that the order was duly served and received by one Friday Ebute.

 

While ruling on two separate ex-parte motions, Justice Maha ordered that the defendants should be served with all the papers filed and they should appear in court at the next hearing.

 

Maha, in his ruling, on the two suits, filed by incorporated trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, and the incorporated trustees of the International Association of Students Economists and Management, ordered the CCT to halt Onnoghen’s trial pending the determination of the matter before him.

 

One of the two suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019, filed by incorporated trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, joined as defendants, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), Umar, the National Judicial Council (NJC), the acting IGP, Mohammed Adamu, and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

 

Despite Federal High Court ruling, the tribunal proceeded with Onnoghen’s trial.

 

Umar and one other member held that the order of the Federal High Court and a similar order by the National Industrial Court were not binding on the tribunal and as such could not stop the CCT from carrying out its constitutional duties.

 

“The issues before the two courts are hereby discountenanced and have no binding effect on the tribunal,” Umar said.

 

The third member of the tribunal, who gave a contradictory ruling, argued that the CCT is bound by the orders of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court.

 

Meanwhile, the contempt form (Form 48), which was dated 12th February, 2019 but filed on the 14th February has not been successfully served on the CCT chairman.

 

LEADERSHIP gathered that the CCT chairman is yet to accept service of the charge.

 

A source familiar with the matter noted that the plaintiff would approach the court for an order of substituted services.

 

“Since he appears to be dodging service, the plaintiffs may approach the court this week for an order to serve him the charge by substituted means,” he said.

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