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Onnoghen Trial: Blow-By-Blow Account of Proceedings , FG Wants CJN To Step Aside

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen comtinued today with serious legal fireworks.

Here is a blow by blow account of the court proceedings

▶As at 8am, there’s heavy Police presence.
▶The orders of the various courts restraining the CCT from proceeding with today’s business are boldly pasted at the gate.
▶it appears there is also post on the gate that the NBA is filing an application seeking to join as amicus curiae. The application is couched as seeking leave for the NBA to appear as amicus curiae
▶Tribunal will sit at 10am as always.
▶Prosecution Counsel has just asked the CCT Registry whether there is an express positive order from Court of Appeal restraining them from proceeding with today’s business and they said No

Thank you

*NBA PRESIDENT (Paul Usoro, SAN) HAS DIRECTED IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF APPLICATION SEEKING TO JOIN NBA AS AN AMICUS CURIAE , SAYING THAT NBA IS NOT AWARE & DID NOT APPROVE THE FILING, OF ANY SUCH APPLICATION *

1⃣The NBA Leadership learnt this morning that there is an application purportedly filed on behalf of the NBA, and seeking CCT’s leave for NBA to join the case as an amicus.
2⃣However, the NBA President has written to the NBA General Secretary, directing that the General Secetary should ensure that the application filed to join NBA as amicus is forthwith withdrawn at the CCT proceedings today. And it must not be moved as NBA never approved the filing of any such application, for the following reasons:
▶The NBA President and the NBA Leadership were not consulted prior to the filing of such application on their behalf. The NBA Leadership was not aware of the filing or any plans to file the application and did not give any directive for the filing of such application
▶The NBA Leadership has mever taken any decision to file any such application, neither was there any resolution to that effect from any organ of the NBA National Leadership
▶That the NBA President and the NBA Leadership is not aware of any provision under the Rules or in law for such application.
▶That appointment of amici is always at discretion of the court or tribunal.”

Thank you.
Proceedings commence

▶ .Aliyu Umar SAN & 9 Ors for Prosecution
▶Wole Olanipekun SAN & 33 other Senior Advocates for Defence.

Chairman is now taking appearance of the other lawyers
▶Prosecution says business of the day is arraignment and pending applications. Pending applications are 1) Preliminary Objection challenging jurisdiction of Tribunal to hear Charge 2) Application for CJN to step aside
▶Prosecution says its obvious arraignment cannot take place in Defendant’s absence says last time Tribunal couldn’t proceed due to Defendant’s absence
▶Prosecution requests that the Tribunal inquire whether Defendant has been served with Charge
▶Defence gives an account of last day’s proceedings differs.. Says he is not aware that business of the day  was arraignment. Reads Courts record where it states that business of the day is hearing of pending applications
▶Defence counsel informs Tribunal that there has been in any case intervening events, draws Tribunal’s attention to Exparte Order of the Federal High Court restraining the Defendant and Tribunal from taking any step that will interfere with the Res of the Suit before FHC pending determination of the Motion on Notice. Says life span of order has been further extended to 28 January 2019 when Motion on Notice will be heard

▶Defence also informs Tribunal of Peter Abang’s Suit before the NIC where CCT Chair is 2nd Defendant and CCB 3rd Defendant and interim order of 14 January 2019 restraining Defendants from proceeding further with Hearing of the Charge pending determination of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction

▶Defence informs Tribunal of 3rd Restraining Order from Valentine Ashi of FCT High Court in Inc Trustees of Foundation of Defence of Consumers Right v AGF & 6 Ors. Hon Chairman is 2nd Defendant in personal capacity & CCT Chair 3rd Defendant in official capacity..the Order mandates all parties to maintain status quo as at 15 January 2019 pending hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice

▶Defence informs Tribunal of 4th Order from Ekwo J of the FHC in which President FRN is 1st Defendant and CJN 3rd Defendant, CCT Chair is 5th Defendant. Ekwo’s order was made 21 January 2019 ordering parties to maintain status quo pending determination of the Motion on Notice fixed for 29 January 2019

Defence says all orders have been served on parties. Informs Tribunal of letter of 18 January 2019 in which 1st Order of FHC per Maha J was also brought to Tribunal’s attention
▶Defence further informs Tribunal of its Appeal to the Court of Appeal on the order consolidating the two pending applications
▶Says Court of Appeal sat on appeal yesterday and the appeal is adjourned to Thursday for Hearing of the Motion for Stay of Further Proceedings at CCT & acceleration of the Appeal
▶Defence says that Prosecution told Court of Appeal that there was no need for fresh order in view of orders of the various High Courts
▶Cites AG Anambra v AG Fed, Pt 606 says that orders of Courts of competent Jurisdiction must be obeyed until it is set aside

▶Cites Rosec Case (1993) NWLR pt 312 per Bello JSC where SC held that Judgment remains binding until set aside by competent Court
▶Directs Court to excerpt that says whether order is null or void it must be obeyed until it is set aside
▶Refers to Section 287 (3) of the Constitution and submits that it enjoins all parties to enforce the decisions of the Courts and must be enforced and given effect by all persons
▶Cites Ngere v Okwuwute which referred to locus classicus case of Mil Governor Lagos State v Ojukwu and reads excerpt
▶In commending all the decisions to the Tribunal says Court of Appeal is now siesed of the matter and urges Tribunal to take cognisance of Mohammed v Olawunmi pt 287, page 254 at 281 per Olatiwura JSC..reads part where it says it amounts to ” judicial rascality and irresponsibility ” if a Judge of subordinate Court decides not to obey an order of a Court
▶Urges Tribunal to “respect, apply, enforce, comply with and give effect” to subsisting orders and take cognisance of Appeal and adjourn the proceedings sine die till the determination of the matters at the different High Courts and the Court of Appeal

Prosecution now addressing Court.
Prosecution says he is within his rights to ask for an arrest warrant but will not be asking for same.

▶Cites Ahmed v Ahmed wherein Onnoghen JSC held that the CCT is not subject to supervision of any High Court
▶Says that application is seeking is that the Defendant “Step Aside” and it doesn’t amount to removal by any means.
▶Submits that Ojukwu Case and all other cases cited are distinguishable from this scenario. Submits that Tribunal is not under supervision of the NIC and FHC
▶Submit that CCT is not duty bound to enforce decisions of those courts
▶Cites Saraki v FRN pt 1646 where the Uniqueness and Independence of the CCT was asserted.
▶Says that there has not been an order of the Court of Appeal
▶Goes back to Defendant’s absence and says that although he is not making an application for a bench warrant but will want the Court to in deciding whether to adjourn or not take note of Paragraph 11 of the Tribunal’s Practice Direction Paragraph and asks for Interim Order in terms of their Motion on Notice asking the CJN to Step Aside.
▶Defence says that its Jurisdiction application has not been argued and as such the Tribunal cannot make any orders
▶Describes Prosecution’s application as stunning
▶Says Tribunal cannot make any injunctive orders till it decides on its Jurisdiction
▶Cites NDIC v CBN on the point that where Jurisdiction is challenged the only Jurisdiction the Court has is to determine whether it has jurisdiction
▶Cites NDIC v CBN on the point that where Jurisdiction is challenged the only Jurisdiction the Court has is to determine whether it has jurisdiction
▶On Defendant’s absence draws Tribunal’s attention to the fact that the Defendant is a party to the FHC Suit against whom there is a subsisting order and that in any case the Tribunal has not gotten to the stage to determine whether Defendant’s presence is necessary

▶Defence says that assuming without conceding that CCT is not bound by the High Court Orders refers to the Court of Appeal decisions and SC decisions earlier cited
▶Refers to Miscellaneous Tribunal of Inquiry v Okoroafor FWLR pt 81 in submitting that assuming this Tribunal is of coordinate jurisdiction as the FHC, FCTHC it still cannot overrule their decisions
▶Cites Section 246 (1) that says Appeals as of right lie from CCT to Court of Appeal. Refers also to Tribunal’s Ruling in CCT 01/ 2017 FRN v Sylvester Ngwuta where the Tribunal held that FRN v Ngajiwa decision is binding on it and upheld the principle of stare decisis
▶Distinguishes all cases cited by the Prosecution and and contends that they have no relevance to this matter. Describes the Ahmed v Ahmed case as a matter between husband and wife and touching on whether a public officer may engage in private business

▶Tribunal rises for 1 hour to rule on Defence application that Tribunal adjourn sine di

Tribunal is back
The various orders of the FHC & NIC is not binding on tribunal. Holds that Tribunal is established by Constitution to deal with breach of code of conduct to the exclusion of any other court
Any order from those Courts cannot stop CCT from proceeding as Constitution is Supreme
Relies on S 246 Constitution

▶Holds that CCT has unqualified original jurisdiction to determine breach of code of conduct Abubakar v Aliyu. Holds CCT ranks equal to FHC & NIC. Holds that CCT is of coordinate jurisdiction as the others
▶Says the persons who obtained the orders and busy bodies and in anycase are not before the CCT
▶Says by Section 306 of ACJA applications for stay of proceedings cannot be countenanced
▶Concludes that the Tribunal will not adjourn sine die
▶Points out that the process for removal of CCT Chair is more onerous than removal of President NIC & CJN. Says it goes to show how “powerful” the Tribunal is.
▶Therefore orders that Defence proceed to move their application challenging the  jurisdiction.

▶Tribunal Holds further that issues in applications here are not new.
▶Holds that Tribunal has no other option but to agree with Defence that orders of NIC & FHC are binding until set aside
▶Holds that Jurisdiction remains unresolved and until it is resolved it will be dangerous to proceed with Prosecution’s application.
▶Concludes that the case on appeal should be allowed to take its course on 24 January
Defence Counsel Wole Olanipekun says he wants to file a case on the counter-affidavit and service to the client including other issues hence there is little time to continue on the issue of jurisdiction at CCT. He is asking for an adjournment.

Tribunal adjourns Charge to Monday, 28 January 2019 for Hearing of Defendant’s Preliminary Objection
▶RULING BY CCT MEMBER 1:
Member 1 now reading her Judgment. adopts Danladi’s Judgment as hers. Member 1 aligns with the Chairman’s decision consequently, defence application that the Tribunal adjourn sine die was refused

▶RULING BY CCT MEMBER 2:
Rules in favour of the Defence

▶Defence applies for adjournment as response to its Preliminary Objection was only served on Defence late yesterday and expresses intention to file a Further Affidavit and Reply Address in respect of same

▶Prosecution concedes that defence was only served yesterday but states intention to move application for Interim Preservatory orders ie that the CJN step aside in the interim

▶Tribunal asserts that issue of Jurisdiction must be settled first

▶Tribunal adjourns Charge to Monday, 28 January 2019 for Hearing of Defendant’s Preliminary Objection

 

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