The trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen resumed today March 11, 2019, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), just after the conclusion of the 2019 general elections.
The suspended CJN appeared in court today, alongside the parties in the suit. In defense of the CJN, Adeboyega Awomolo said that there are about five applications. The first which was filed on January 14, 2019, the second on February 4, 2019, the 3rd application was filed on January 31, 2019, in order to ensure fair hearing that the chairman should recuse himself or disqualify himself from the trial, while the 4th application was filed on February 13, asking the tribunal to stay further proceedings and wait for the directive of the appeal court. The defense counsel said the 3rd and the 4th applications have been overtaken by events.
Mr. Awomolo further asked the court to take judicial notice that the proceedings had begun before the NJC sitting. Also, He added that the only two relevant ones are the application questioning jurisdiction of the tribunal But the prosecutor Mr. Aliyu Umar said that in respect of the application challenging jurisdiction they filed a written address on January 16, 2019. He added that he filed a counter affidavit in opposing the chairman and a second member of the Tribunal to recuse themselves from the trial.
The defense counsel said in his argument of the appeal that by Combined reading of the constitution which established the tribunal, “It is a disciplinary court in other to enforce the obedient of the Code of Conduct of Public Officers, it has no penal jurisdiction. It cannot sentence or fine. All it can do according to paragraph 18 subsection 2 is to disqualify candidates etc.
“If you take a look at the disciplinary powers of NJC the constitution cannot donate the exercise of the same power to two bodies.
“The later provision overrides the former position.
“These positions have been established by the decision of this tribunal in the case of Justice Sylvester Nguta”.
Mr. Nwomolo urged the tribunal to maintain its position in the case of Nguta.
The Prosecution counsel said it should be dismissed for lack of merit.
On the question of powers of the NJC as contrasted to the tribunal, he said it is a misconception of the Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Tribunal act.
“Tribunal cannot bring anybody before itself it is the CCB that makes that decision.
“The constitution directed the bureau to bring their complaints here not NJC. For the bureau to take its complaint to NJC will be minimal”.
He added that there is a difference between judicial misconduct and a breach of the code of conduct.
“Awomolo you can’t run from the fact that Justice ‘Nguta was brought to the tribunal based on misconduct.
“Allow the application to let him go to the NJC and get back if need be”.
On the second application by justice Onnoghen asking the tribunal chairman to recuse himself from the trial counsel to Justice Onnoghen argues that “A person is entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.
“This application has two issues this proceeding is afflicted with a funder mental bias which raises a very serious constitutional issue.
“The accuser, the complainant, the prosecutor, and the judex, the investigator is in one arm of government. This is against the root of natural justice and the fundamental right of fair hearing deserves a thorough examination of the Tribunal”.
But the prosecutor Mr. Aliyu argued “The composition of the Tribunal is as directed by the enabling act. The case of this tribunal constitution ensures that members are independent.
“The real complaint of the defendant in this matter is that this tribunal in the interim directed the defeat to step aside and directed the president to swear – in the most senior person as CJN. On this fundamental complain the defeat has appealed against that ruling.
He added that the defendant did not demonstrate any bias against the chairman or any member of the Tribunal.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to dismiss the application for lacking in merit.
Responding on point of law counsel to justice Onnoghen said the appeal cited by the prosecution is not before the tribunal.
He noted that the tribunal ought to be given the record of the court to enable it to examine the said appeal.
After all arguments, the chairman of the Tribunal Mister Danladi Umar asked the parties to address the tribunal on. Section 392. The prosecutor said the issue of prosecution is tied to the validity of the charge and the tribunal needs to decide on the issue on jurisdiction and should be ruled upon before proceeding or otherwise.
In respect of section 392 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the tribunal has found that it has the power to reserve its ruling along with the substantive suit and deliver its ruling at the time of judgment.
He said all rulings will be decided with the substantive matter in accordance with the provisions of section 296 which says that the latter will proceed day by day until the latter is concluded.
“The tribunal will deliver the ruling at the same time it will decide the final decision.
“The tribunal also ordered that proceedings will continue day by day”.
The case has been adjourned till the next day, March 12, although the decision was by the chairman of the tribunal alone.