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Published On: Wed, Jan 30th, 2019

NJC gives Onnoghen, Tanko 7 days to respond to petitions

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•As ex-CJN appeals suspension

By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

The National Judicial Council(NJC), has given Justice Walter Onnoghen and Acting Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Muhammad, seven days to respond to petitions against them at the NJC.
The Council also referred a petition against the Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar, to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
The NJC took these decisions at an emergency meeting yesterday, when it considered four petitions filed at the council.
In a statement signed by the Director of Information of the NJC, Soji Oye, the judicial body said the weight of the matter necessitated the council to abridge the usual response period from fourteen to seven working days for the justices to respond.
According to the statement, the suspended CJN Justice Onnoghen, and Justice Muhammad, who is in acting capacity, excused themselves from the meeting.
Consequently, the council elected former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting.
In addition, the NJC, informed that in line with its procedure, the council also forwarded the petitions against Justice Onnoghen and Tanko Muhammad to them for their responses.
Council will reconvene on the 11th February, 2019.
The petitions are; petition against Hon. Mr. Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education;
Petition against Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative;
Also, a petition against Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, OON.
In addition, there was a petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
The statement said, ”Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.
”In line with its procedure, Council also forwarded the petitions against Hon. Justices W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON and I. T. Muhammad, CFR to them for their responses.
”In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from fourteen (14) to seven (7) working days for the Hon. Justices to respond”, the statement further said.
However, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Onnoghen, has approved the Court of Appeal, Abuja, challenging the ex-parte order the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT issued for his suspension.
Onnoghen has in the suit number, CA/ABJ/01/2019, expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling of the CCT on 23rd January, 2019.
The federal government is the respondent in the suit.
In the four grounds of appeal he lodged through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Justice Onnoghen, argued that the Mr. Umar-led CCT erred in law by granting an ex-parte order for his removal.
On another ground, Onnoghen said tribunal erred in law when it has no jurisdiction to entertain the six-count charge the federal government levelled against him.
He also premised on the ground that it erred in law and violated the right of the appellant to fair hearing.
He therefore applied for, “An order setting aside the order of the tribunal made on the 23rd of January, directing the Appellant to step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The appellant also want an order of the appeal court that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes all necessary measures to swear-in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council”.
The embattled Onnoghen submitted that “the exercise of powers over the motion ex-parte without first determining the jurisdiction of the tribunal amounted to unlawful exercise of jurisdiction and therefore void”
No date has been fixed for hearing of the appeal.

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