The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has ordered that the trial of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen shall continue from today on a day-to-day basis.
The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar gave the order yesterday following the hearing of two applications by Onnoghen, one of which was challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal, with the other asking the chairman to disqualify himself on allegations of bias.
He said the ruling on the applications would be delivered along with the final judgment on the case at the end of the trial.
Although there was partial agreement between the prosecution team led by Aliyu Umar (SAN) and the defence team led by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) to the effect that the rulings on the applications be delivered first before going into the trial, the tribunal chairman said the tribunal believed that the said rulings could be delivered at the end of the trial along with the final judgment on the case.
Umar held that “In view of the fact that the applications all bordered on jurisdiction and competence of the tribunal, the tribunal is bound by the S296(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and Paragraph 5 sub 5 of the Practice Direction of the tribunal.
He ruled therefore that ruling on all the applications will be delivered together with the final determination (judgement) of the substantive suit.
“The proceedings of this case will continue on day-to-day and the matter is hereby adjourned to March 12 for hearing of the substantive issue.”
Earlier, while arguing the application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal, Awomolo urged the tribunal to dismiss the charge as it did in the charge against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court in 2018.
The tribunal in 2018 agreed with Ngwuta’s counsel that as a serving justice of the apex court, he (Ngwuta) could not be tried in any court or tribunal, except after he had been subjected to the investigatory and disciplinary processes of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The tribunal’s decision was hinged on the decision of the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal in the suit between Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), where the appellate court agreed with Nganjiwa that a case built on a misconduct of a judicial officer while performing his duty should have first been referred to the NJC.
On the second motion seeking the disqualification of the tribunal chairman, Awomolo said the application raised two major points; that of bias and raised a very serious constitutional issue where the complainant, the investigator, the prosecutor and the judex is in one arm of government – the executive – and it’s thus against the fundamental order of fair hearing.
The prosecutor, however, asked the tribunal to dismiss the two applications for lacking in merit and having no basis. He noted that for the second application, if the submission is accepted by the tribunal that would only mean that there would no longer be a CCB or CCT and no public officer would be prosecuted again as regards to code of conduct.
He also said the defendant did not show any bias on the part of the tribunal chairman and members to warrant the granting of the application.