Appeal Court Reserves Judgment on Onnoghen’s Case

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Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Court of Appeal in Abuja Wednesday reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to parties in the appeals filed by the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen against the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

A three-man panel of the court led by Justice Stephen Adah, made the announcement after counsel in the matters adopted their briefs of argument in the four appeals filed before the court.

In the first appeal, Onnoghen is challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the charge against him, being a serving judicial officer.

In the second appeal, he is challenging the decision of the tribunal to hear all pending applications together, including his application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the suit.

In the third appeal, the suspended CJN is challenging the veracity of the ex-parte order directing him to vacate office as CJN and for President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint an acting CJN.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, had announced appearance for Onnoghen.

However, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) who argued the appeal on behalf of Onnoghen, emphasised that there was the need for the appellate court to examine the circumstances surrounding the grant of the exparte order by the tribunal.

“The court should interrogate the circumstances which we consider questionable,” Uche said, adding that granting of the exparte order has had far-reaching consequences on the rule of law in the country.

According to the senior lawyer, the CCT ought not to have made the order in the first place considering the pendency of a motion questioning the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

Questioning further the circumstances in which the exparte order was obtained, Uche noted that the tribunal granted the order a day after it had adjourned to the following week on agreement of parties.

“The matter was adjourned on January 22 to January 28, on agreement of parties and the order was made the next day, January 23,” he said, adding that from the tribunal’s record, no counsel applied for the exparte order.

In a brief response, counsel to the federal government, Aliyu Umar (SAN), informed the court that neither the appellant nor the respondent made available any material that would enable the court take a look at the circumstances surrounding the granting of the exparte order by the tribunal.

Before yesterday’s proceedings, the Appellate Court had on three consecutive occasions postponed hearing in the appeals filed by Onnoghen challenging the decisions of the CCT where he is standing trial over an alleged breach of code of conduct for public officers.

The suspended CJN was eventually arraigned on February 15 after several failed attempts to stop his arraignment on the grounds that the CCT lacked jurisdiction to try him, being a judicial officer.

He pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge preferred against him by the federal government.

He was consequently admitted to bail on self-recognition.