As FHC orders parties to maintain status quo
NIC re-affirms order stopping Onnoghen’s removal
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday, failed to persuade the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja to stop the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, from proceeding with his planned arraignment today.
The appellate court, in a ruling by a three-man panel of justices, said it would refrain from making such order pending the hearing of an appeal the CJN lodged to challenge the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him before the CCT.
Onnoghen had through his team of lawyers, led by Chief Adegnoyega Awomolo, SAN, made an oral application for the Court of Appeal to stop the CCT from going ahead with plans to dock him on the six-count criminal charge Federal Government entered against him, pending the determination of his appeal.
The Federal Government was cited as the only respondent in the appeal.
Awomolo applied for order to stop the the CCT trial, after Federal Government’s lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Omonuwa, insisted that he would need three days to respond to the CJN’s appeal.
Omonuwa, who told the court that he was only served the processes yesterday morning, said his appearance in court was out of respect for the judiciary.
He, therefore, applied for a short adjournment to enable him file a reply to the CJN’s motion.
Consequently, counsel to the CJN, Awolowo, SAN, said it was necessary for the appellate court to preserve the subject matter of the case before the CCT.
He urged the court to order the CCT to keep the proceedings before it at abeyance, pending the disposal of the appeal.
However, the appellate court panel, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, after a brief meeting among themselves, declined the request.
“We are of the view that no form of order shall be made at his stage pending hearing of motion on notice adjourned till January 24,” Justice Aboki held.
FHC orders parties to maintain status quo
Meanwhile, in another development, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, stopped the CCT from going ahead with further proceedings on the charge against the CJN.
Specifically, the court, in a ruling delivered by Justice Iyang Ekwo, held: “Parties are hereby ordered to maintain status quo ante pending the determination of the motion on notice. This means that parties must observe the rule of law by not doing anything that would tamper with the Res in this matter pending the determination of the motion on notice”.
The order followed a fresh suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/67/2019, lodged before the court by Action Peoples Party, APP.
Cited as Defendants in the suit were President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, the CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko, the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
NIC re-affirms order stopping Onnoghen’s removal
Meanwhile, National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja, yesterday, re-activated its order stopping the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, from granting any injunction to remove him from office.
The NIC, in a ruling delivered by Justice Sanusi Kado, held that the order it made on January 14, which stopped the CCT from proceeding with Onnoghen’s trial over his alleged non declaration of assets, was still extant.
Justice Kado directed that copies of the originating processes and the court’s enrolled order be served on the chairman of CCT panel, Mr. Danladi Umar.
It will be recalled that the CCT had earlier fixed Tuesday for the CJN to take his plea to the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him through the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
Aside from the allegation that he failed to declare his assets as prescribed by the law, the federal government also alleged that the CJN operated fixed separate domiciliary accounts.
The CJN had penultimate Monday, when his trial was originally scheduled to kick-off, declined to appear before the three-member panel tribunal, though he briefed lawyers to file processes to challenge the jurisdiction of the CCT to entertain the charge against him.
The government has, however, filed a motion to secure an order of the CCT for the embattled CJN to vacate his office, in view of the charge against him.
Meanwhile, the NIC, after it had restated its interim orders yesterday, adjourned the suit, querying the legal propriety of the proceedings before the CCT till January 30 for report of service.
When the suit, which was filed by one Mr Peter Abang was called up, counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr. James Igwe, SAN, told the court that some of the Defendants had been served, including the CCT chairman, who he said directed his Secretary to accept service on his behalf.
Igwe, however, persuaded the court to grant an order permitting that the CCT boss be served all the processes through substituted means.
The court equally ordered that notice of the proceeding before it be placed on the wall of the tribunal complex.
Other Defendants in the matter are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, the CCT Chairman, the CCB, the National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
All the Defendants were absent in court on Monday except the NJC which was represented by Mr Garba Tetengi, SAN.