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Published On: Tue, Jan 29th, 2019

Senate approaches Supreme Court over Onnoghen

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As CCT suspends hearing pending appeal verdict

By Vivian Okejeme, Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu

Senate has filed a case in the Supreme Court, seeking its interpretation on whether President Muhammadu Buhari acted within the provision of the constitution in his suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Justice Walter Nkannu Onnoghen.
This is just as the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal, (CCT) Umar Danladi, yesterday, adjourned sine die further hearing on the suspended Justice Walter Onnoghen, over non assets declaration.
The Senate is asking the apex court to determine whether the action of the President does amount to usurpation of the powers of the Senate as provided for in Section 292 of the Constitution.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said “following the filing of the case, the matter of the suspension of the CJN which is the main issue for which the Senate had planned to reconvene tomorrow, has become subjudice.
“Therefore, in line with the standing rules of the Senate not to debate issues that are already pending before the court, the reconvening of the Senate tomorrow has been put off. The previous adjournment of the Senate till February 19, 2019 stays”.
Aside Olaniyonu , the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh also issued a statement to that effect which reads thus: “ :”This is to inform all Distinguished Senators of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the resumption in Plenary Scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, 29”“ January, 2019 has been cancelled.
“The scheduled date of resumption in Plenary earlier fixed for Tuesday, 19th February, 2019, remains, please”.
The Senate had through a statement issued and signed by its Clerk, on Sunday, slated special plenary for today to debate the action of the President as regards Onnoghen’s suspension and come up with appropriate resolutions .
But leadership of the red chamber chickened out of the planned move yesterday based on tension that was already building up within the camps of the APC senators who are 56 in number and their PDP counterparts who are 46.
Meanwhile, the CCT decision is following an interim stay proceedings order of the Court of Appeal pending its ruling of the application of the appellant to stay proceedings at the CCT, on 30th January.
The tribunal, had on January 22nd, held that it’s not binding by all orders of court, restraining it from proceeding with the trial.
The tribunal, in a split decision of two to one, held that the orders were made by courts of equal jurisdiction, adding that the CCT is a special court empowered to handle exclusively the issues relating to assets declaration.
The discountenance order was made by the Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, and was supported by Justice Juli Anabor, who aligned herself with the chairman’s position while Justice Williams Atedze gave the opposing judgment.
In rejecting the orders, Umar, relied on section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, while Mr. Atedze, relied on section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, insisting that the CCT panel ought to have respected four different interim injunctions that restrained all the parties, including the tribunal, from taking further steps in the matter.
Consequently, he ordered the defense to move their application of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
When the matter came up yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Musa Ibrahim, holding brief for the lead prosecution, Aliyu Umar SAN, draw the attention of the tribunal to the order of the Court of Appeal of 24th January, asking him to stay proceeding.
He, therefore, asked the tribunal to adjourned the matter pending the decision of the appeal court.
‘’Ordinarily, the matter before you today is to hear the application on the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the matter.
‘’In view of the court of appeal ruling, we are asking for adjournment, pending its ruling,’’ he submitted.
Responding, the defense counsel, Kanu Agabi SAN, holding brief for the lead counsel, Whole Olanipekun SAN, said he is not objecting the application.
He, however, asked the court to adjourned sine die, the plea, which the defense did not opposed.
The Chairman of the CCT, in his ruling adjourned the matter sine die pending the decision of the court of appeal.
The CCT Chairman, Umar and Amabor, on January 23, in the absence of Atedze, issued the ex-parte order President Muhammadu Buhari relied upon to suspend Onnoghen and appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad as the Acting CJN.
Relying on an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), President Muhammadu Buhari last Friday suspended the chief justice replacing him with another Supreme Court justice, Tanko Mohammed.

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