Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, over alleged non declaration of assets resumes today, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), amidst doubts on his arraignment.
Although the hearing notice had already been served on Justice Onnoghen, his appearance at the tribunal today remains in doubt, in view of some legal hurdles that are likely to play up.
Besides the legal technicalities that may characterise the proceedings at the tribunal, the Court of Appeal has equally fixed today to commence hearing in the substantive appeal filed by Justice Onnoghen, and this may stall proceedings at the tribunal, given that the appellate court is higher in judicial hierarchy.
Another hurdle before the tribunal is the alleged plan by Justice Onnoghen’s defence team, led by Wole Olanikpekun (SAN), to ask the Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, to rescue himself on account of corruption charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Daily Sun, however, gathered that there were moves by some prominent lawyers to resolve the issue politically, and save the suspended CJN from entering into the dock.
The tribunal fixed the date following the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which refused the application for stay of proceedings brought by Justice Onnoghen.
A statement issued yesterday, by Ibraheem Al-Hassan,
Head, Press and Public Relations, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), confirmed that trial in the case will resume today.
Al-Hassan said the date was fixed following an application by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for the resumption of trial.
The said application dated January 30, and jointly signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman and Fatima Danjuma Ali, read in part:
“The above subject refers.
This case came up for hearing of preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the tribunal on January 28, 2019, but, the tribunal could not proceed, due to the pendency of the case at the Court of Appeal.
“However, in the wake of this afternoon, January 30, 2019, the Court of Appeal has thrown out the appeal.
“Consequently on the above, we urge the tribunal to give us a date for resumption of the trial subject, to the convenience of the tribunal, most obliged my Lord.”
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, last Wednesday, refused to stay proceedings in the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in the six-count alleged false declaration charges filed against him by the Federal Government before the CCT.
The court refused to grant the application for stay of proceedings brought by Justice Onnoghen, on the grounds that section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 does not allow a stay of proceedings in a criminal matter.
He added that the tribunal, being vested with a quasi criminal jurisdiction, is governed by the provisions of ACJA, 2015, and its proceedings in a criminal matter cannot be stayed.
Justice Onnoghen had, in a motion on notice, asked the appellate court to halt his trial at the CCT, on grounds that the tribunal erred in law when it adjourned on January 14, to rule on both his motion, challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction as well as that of the federal government seeking the tribunal’s order, asking him to step aside as CJN, pending the determination of the charges against him at the tribunal.
However, in a unanimous decision, the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, ruled that the prayers of Onnoghen, that proceedings at the tribunal be stayed runs contrary to the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.