Onnoghen Insists CCT Lacks Jurisdiction to Proceed with Trial

Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen

By Alex Enumah in Abuja

The suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday insisted that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has no jurisdiction to proceed with the six count charge brought against him by the Federal Government.

Onnoghen told the tribunal that as a serving judicial officer, it was the National Judicial Council (NJC) that was vested with powers to entertain any misconduct against him.

In a motion dated January 14, 2019, Onnoghen through his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, prayed the tribunal to strike out or dismiss the entire charges against him for want of jurisdiction.

Awomolo at the resumed trial, cited sections 34 and 292 of the 3rd scheduled of the 1999 constitution as grounds that the CCT had no requisite power to deal with erring judicial officer without first resorting to the NJC.

He said the powers of the National Judicial Council was superior to that of the Code Conduct Bureau when it comes to the issue of judicial Officer, adding that in line with section 292, the NJC must first indict a judicial Officer before any Judiciary measure can be taken.

The senior lawyer, reminded the tribunal that it had earlier recognised this position last year, when it declined to assume jurisdiction in the case of Federal Government against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta based on the Court of Appeal decison that ordered that serving judicial officers must first be referred to the NJC in matters of misconduct before prosecution in any other court.

Awomolo, accordingly urged the tribunal to maintain his earlier decison by striking out the charges against Onnoghen.

Responding, counsel to the Federal Government, Aliyu Umar SAN, however urged the tribunal to dismiss Onnoghen’s application on the grounds that the application lacked merit.

He said there was a difference between a judicial misconduct and failure of a public officer to comply with the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau, adding that in the case of Ngajiwa cited by the defendant, Ngajiwa was accused of bribe taking in the course of his judicial function.

Details later.