The Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday threw out the Federal High Court, Abuja, and National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s orders stopping the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen is standing trial for alleged false declaration of assets.
The CCT also held that the courts were of coordinate jurisdiction with the tribunal and so lacked powers to direct or supervise its proceedings.
The Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, said these while rejecting a motion by Onnoghen asking the tribunal to adjourn indefinitely based on the High Court and the NICN’s orders that the parties must maintain the status quo.
He gave the ruling in a split decision of two to one. While Justice William Atedze gave the dissenting judgment, Justice Julie Anabor agreed with the tribunal chairman.
Meanwhile, Onnoghen was again absent from the hearing on Tuesday. The PUNCH had reported that the CJN would again be absent from the hearing.
Justice Umar rejected the submission by the Defence Counsel led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that the tribunal should adjourn indefinitely based on the orders of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and the NICN which ordered the parties to maintain the status quo pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Olanipekun also argued that the tribunal should adjourn because the matter was already before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
But noting that the Court of Appeal had yet to issue any order, the CCT chair agreed with the complainant’s counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), that the judgment cited were from courts of equal status with the tribunal.
Justice Umar said, “This is because the tribunal is established by the constitution under the third schedule to adjudicate on matters of asset declaration.
“Therefore any order from any court directing it not to carry out its duty is in crystal violation of the constitution.”
Justice Umar said an appeal from the tribunal could only go to the Court of Appeal.
The tribunal adjourned sitting till January 28 for hearing of Onnoghen’s preliminary objection where he is challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
While the sitting was on, a group — National Interest Defenders and Lawyers in Defence of Democracy — stormed the tribunal to protest against the CJN’s trial.
The groups carried placards of various inscriptions including, “APC wants to destroy our Supreme Court”, “Buhari wants judges to join APC” and “Nobody can force Onnoghen out.”
A spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, advised President Muhammadu Buhari against removing the CJN, saying that could cause tension in the country.
He said, “The President wants to install a pliable Justice to help the APC get favourable judgments from the Supreme Court in the Rivers and Zamfara APC crisis, in the presidential election and in the states where they are afraid they will lose elections. The states include Akwa Ibom, Delta, Lagos, Benue, Imo, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Abia, and Sokoto.”