Onnoghen Seeks Disqualification of CCT Chair, Says his Integrity is in Doubt

The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has filed an application before the Code of Conduct Tribunal demanding the disqualification of the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar.

The motion notice dated Monday, February 4, 2019 was brought pursuant to Rule 12(1) and (1A) of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2016 and under the inherent  jurisdiction of the tribunal.

The motion was signed by Chris Uche (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), Okon Efut (SAN), Chief Ogwu Onoja (SAN), Noah Abdul and George Ibrahim.

Onnoghen is “seeking an order of this honourable tribunal for the honourable chairman of the tribunal, Honourable Danladi Umar, to disqualify/recuse himself from further participating in the adjudication of this case on the grounds of real likelihood of bias.”

The defence said Umar had “constructively convicted the CJN sought to be arraigned before him without either hearing from him or his being formally arraigned.”

The applicant noted that the CCT chairman directed President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the CJN and appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad without recourse to the constitution or the National Judicial Council.

Onnoghen noted that on January 23, 2019 the CCT boss entertained a motion ex parte which was not moved by any known prosecutor.

The CJN said Umar had a pending case before the EFCC and was therefore subject to blackmail and threats from the executive arm of government which could impair his ability to be a fair arbiter.

He added, “The learned chairman of the CCT (Hon Danladi Umar) is a tainted arbiter by reason of a criminal charge at the instance of the EFCC for receiving bribe money in the sum of N10m in charge number: CR/109/18 in FCT High Court by an organ under the supervision of the Attorney General of the Federation.

“Incidentally, he (AGF) is the prosecutor and complainant in this matter such that with such a sword of Damocles hanging over him, and himself not just recusing himself from a quasi-judicial function, he is himself not likely to be a fair arbiter, but instead more likely to trade in the charges against him in a quasi-plea bargaining in the charge against him and enter summary conviction in this proceedings to please the prosecutor.

“The applicant (Onnoghen) has no confidence in the chairman of the tribunal to do justice fairly between parties in this case as he is a man on a mission to please his masters.”

In an affidavit in support of the motion, a lawyer, Blessing Ezedimma, listed several alleged instances of bias displayed by the CCT chairman.

She noted that despite several orders issued by high courts and the National Industrial Court restraining the removal of Onnoghen, the CCT chairman decided to ignore everything and went ahead to grant an ex parte order.

“The chairman authored and signed an ex parte order directing a man that had not been convicted to step aside on account of a charge not yet before him as the CJN which is itself a conviction prior to arraignment and plea or trial,” Ezedimma said.

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