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Published On: Wed, Feb 6th, 2019

Onnoghen: Supreme Court strikes out Senate’s suit

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

The Supreme Court, yesterday, struck out the suit filed by the Senate, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen.
This is just as Onnoghen has asked the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal(CCT) Danladi Umar, to hands-off his trial.
The Senate, had in the suit marked SC76/2019, queried among others, the constitutionality of the suspension of the CJN by President Buhari.
When the matter was called up yesterday, counsel to the Senate, Paul Erokoro (SAN) told the court that he filed a notice of discontinuance of the matter.
Erokoro, said the notice of discontinuance had been served on the defendants.
Responding, counsel to Buhari, Mrs. Maimuna Lami-Shiro, who did not object to the plaintiff’s move to withdraw the case, confirmed to the court, that the appellant served them with the notice, but added that, the service was made few minutes before the court resumed.
Consequently, a seven-man panel of the court, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, unanimously, struck out the case.
Although a lawyer, Chief A. A. Adeniyi, announced appearance for the party seeking to be joined in the suit (the All Progressives Congress caucus in the Senate), the court could not hear his application in view of the plaintiff’s notice of discontinuance.
Recall that the Senate, had in a statement signed by its Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said it has withdrawn the suit from the Supreme Court.
The withdrawal was following the intervention of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate the iasue.
The statement said“ The Senate has therefore decided to discontinue the case it filed at the Supreme Court. It should be noted that the case has been slated for hearing tomorrow. This decision also affirm the confidence of the Senate in the ability of the NJC to successfully and creditably resolve the issues.’’
Citing likelihood of bias, Onnoghen alleged that Danladi, had constructively convicted him without hearing him or formally arraigning him before the tribunal.
Insisting that the tribunal chairman, should disqualify himself from further participating in the hearing of his case, Onnoghen stated that the chairman is a tainted arbiter.
He posited that Danladi is facing a bribery charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, and could trade the charge to convict him for a plea bargaining.
In a suit number, CR/109/18 in FCT High Court, the prosecution agency, alleged that Danladi received money bribe in the sum of N10m by an organ under the supervision of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The embattled Onnoghen stated this in a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Rule 12(1) and (1A) of the revised Code of Conduct for judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2016, filed in he registry of the CCT, yesterday.
Counsel in the motion are Chris Uche (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), Okon Efut (SAN), Chief Ogwu Onoja (SAN), Noah Abdul and George Ibrahim.
Onnighen through his lawyers stated that Umar had authored and signed an exparte order directing an un-convicted man to step aside as the CJN on account of a charge not yet before him , which is in itself a conviction prior to arraignment and plea/trial.
In his grounds of application, he stated, “The Chairman on January 23, 2019 entertained a motion exparte not moved by any known prosecutor bearing the same title, charge number and purported accused person/defendant which substantially predetermined the guilt of the defendant without an arraignment.
“Consequent upon paragraphs IV above, the learned chairman (Hon. Danladi Umar) who purportedly moved, made and signed the order has put himself in the position of the prosecutor, judge and jury to the clear prejudice and bias against the Defendant.”
President Muhammad Buhari had on January 25 suspended Onnoghen and swore-in Tanko Muhammad as Acting CJN based on an exparte order granted by the CCT Chairman.

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