The case of alleged false declaration of assets involving the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal took a new twist on Tuesday as the CCT questioned the powers of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to stopping the CJN’s trial.
According to the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, the courts were of coordinate jurisdiction with the tribunal and so lacked powers to direct or supervise its proceedings.
Umar said these while rejecting a motion by Onnoghen, who was again absent, that the tribunal be adjourned indefinitely based on the High Court and the NICN’s orders that the parties must maintain the status quo.
Of the two other judges at the CCT, Justice William Atedze gave the dissenting judgement, while Justice Julie Anabor agreed with the tribunal chairman.
Justice Umar rejected the submission by the Defence Counsel led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that the tribunal should adjourn indefinitely based on the orders of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and the NICN which ordered the parties to maintain the status quo pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Olanipekun added that the tribunal need to adjourn as the matter was already before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Responding, the CCT chair noted that the Court of Appeal had yet to issue any order, and that the judgement cited were from courts of equal status with the tribunal as court of superior record.
“This is because the tribunal is established by the constitution under the third schedule to adjudicate on matters of asset declaration,” said Umar.
“Therefore any order from any court directing it not to carry out its duty is in crystal violation of the constitution.”
Justice Umar added that an appeal from the tribunal could only go to the Court of Appeal.
The tribunal adjourned sitting till January 28 for hearing of Onnoghen’s preliminary objection where he is challenging the jurisdiction of the court.