By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, Mr. Danladi Umar, and counsel to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday, exchanged hot words over adjournment request by the defendant.
The suspended CJN, who for the third time, failed to appear before the tribunal to defend the six-count charge the Federal Government entered against him, had through his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awolowo, SAN, urged the tribunal to temporarily suspend the trial since the National Judicial Council, NJC, is already seized of facts of the matter.
“I humbly pray your Lordships to tarry for awhile so that the defendant will not suffer double jeopardy.
“It is in the interest of justice to also the NJC to take a decision before proceeding with the case. I believe that the integrity of this tribunal will be further enhanced if this application is granted”, Awolowo added.
Though the prosecution counsel, Alhaji Aliyu Umar, said he was not opposed to the adjournment request, he however decried what he termed as “consistent absence” of the suspended CJN at the tribunal.
Umar who suggested that the matter should be adjourned till Thursday, warned that FG would not hesitate to wield its powers and apply for an arrest warrant, should Justice Onnoghen fail to appear on that date.
“If he fails to appear on that day, we will be forced to apply for a bench warrant”, Umar submitted.
At this juncture, Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr. Umar, insisted on proceeding with the trial by allowing the parties to argue the preliminary objection the suspended CJN filed to challenge jurisdiction of the tribunal to try him.
Umar further accused Onnoghen’s lawyer of deliberately employing delay tactics in a bid to frustrate the trial.
Infuriated by the remark, Onnoghen’s lawyer, tackled the CCT Chairman, reminding him that he (Awomolo) is not a small boy at the Bar.
Awomolo insisted that while it was imperative for lawyers to give respect to the Bench, he maintained that Judges ought to respect themselves too.
“I have spent over 25 years in Bar, and will not stand and allow anyone to disrespect me in front of junior lawyers. I take serious exception to that”, Awomolo fumed.
Not deterred, the CCT Chairman vowed to go ahead with the trial.
“My position is that you have to move your application today, if you don’t, I will ask the prosecution to move it’s own application for interlocutory injunction against the defendant”, the CCT boss stated.
In a bid to douse the tension, the prosecution counsel persuaded the tribunal to stand-down the matter for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, about 10 minutes after the stand-down, the panel reconvened and adjourned the case till next week Wednesday.
More details soon…