By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, yesterday, reserved judgment in the appeals filed by 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, reserved the judgement to a date that would be communicated to parties, after counsel 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 decison 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 Onnoghen to vacate office as CJN and for President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint an acting CJN.
Though Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, had announced appearance for Onnoghen, however Chief Chris Uche SAN, who argued the appeal on behalf of Onnoghen, emphasized that there is 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 the grant 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 SAN, 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 respondent made available any material that would enable the court take a look at the circumstances surrounding the grant of the exparte order by the tribunal.
Before Wednesday’s proceedings the Appellate Court had on three occasions on a row postpone hearing in the appeals filed by Onnoghen challenging the decisions of the CCT where he is standing trial on alleged breach of code of conduct for public officers.
Justice Onnoghen was arraigned on February 15 after several failed attempts to stop his arraignment on grounds that the CCT lacked jurisdiction to try him being a judicial officer.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the six count and consequently admitted to bail on self-recognizance.