Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A five-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court on Monday struck out an appeal challenging the removal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen for want of diligent prosecution.
In a referral appeal on the subject matter, the appellant, Dr Samuel Nwawka, is challenging the constitutionality of Onnoghen’s removal on the strength of an ex parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal which he submitted amounted to treasonable conduct.
However, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour struck out the appeal following the absence of the appellant in court and his legal representation.
When the appeal was called, neither the appellant nor his counsel we’re in court as against two of the respondents who were present in court.
Specifically, the National Judicial Council and the Head of Service of the Federation who were listed as 7th and 8th respondents were in court.
In his motion No; SC/1206/2019, Dr Nwawka urged the apex court to invoke its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, and order 2 rule 28(3) of its rules, and determine the constitutional questions posed in the appeal.
He equally prayed the court for an urged hearing of the appeal pursuant to section to 295(3) of the 1999 constitution, by a full panel of the court with the exclusion of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.
The appellant prayed the apex court to determine whether the action of the first to six respondents in applying for and ordering the removal of Onnoghen before his appearance at the Code of Conduct Tribunal is whether or not constitutional, arbitrary, outrageous and a flagrant violation of Onnoghen’s rights to the presumption of innocence.
Respondents in the appeal are Federal Government, Abubakar Malami, Justice Tanko Muhammad, Dr Mohammed Isah (CCB Chairman), Danladi Umar (CCT Chairman), Honourable Julie Anabor (CCT member), National Judicial Council, Head of Service of the Federation and the Senate as 1st to 9th respondents respectively.
Among others, the appellant prayed the Supreme Court to determine whether the action of the first to six respondents in applying for, complexity in and ordering the removal of Justice Onnoghen before his appearance at the Code of Conduct Tribunal is not unconstitutional, arbitrary, outrageous and a flagrant violation of Onnoghen’s rights to presumption of innocence.
Besides asking for accelerated hearing of the application, the applicant had also asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to recuse himself from a full panel of the apex court that would consider the application.
The applicant whose suit Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court had declined to hear had earlier approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, which also declined to hear the application.
At the Supreme Court on Monday, when the application was called, A A Shariff and Rita-Maurice Shittu, announced appearances for the 7th and 8th respondents respectively.
The applicant was absent and had no legal representation. There was also no legal representation for the Federal Government, Abubakar Malami, Justice Tanko Muhammad (CJN) Dr Mohammed Isah (CCB Chairman), Danladi Umar (CCT Chairman), Hon. Julie Anabor (CCT member) and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th respondents, respectively.