Friday, May 10, 2019 6:06 pm
The court of Appeal Abuja Division on Friday struck out an appeal by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, challenging an ex parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) issued on Jan. 23, for his suspension from office pending his trial before the tribunal.
In a unanimous judgment of its three-month bench led by Justice Stephen Adah, the Court of Appeal held that the CCT’s ex parte order breached the ex-CJN’s right to fairing hearing.
The appellate court held that the grounds upon which the CCT anchored the suspension violated the CJN’s fundamental rights to fair hearing.
According to the appellate court, the manner in which the order for the suspension was issued was shrouded in secrecy that raised questions.
Justice Adah, in one of the four appeals filed by Onnoghen held that justice must not be shrouded in secrecy as done in the granting of the ex-parte application which suspended Onnoghen.
The Judge faulted the suspension and said that it was wrong for merit of a substantive matter to be taken at the interlocutory stage.
Adah held that from the record of proceedings before the Appeal court, parties have joined issues, and that the Federal Government went behind to take order that affected the interest of the appellant.
“Since the ex-parte order had been spent and cannot serve any useful purpose here at the Appeal court, judgment in the substantive matter had also been delivered by CCT, the appeal is hereby struck out”, Justice Adah held.
Adah also struck out another appeal filed by Onnoghen on a bench warrant issued against him by the CCT on the ground that the records of proceedings transmitted to the appeal court did not show that.
According to the Judge, bench warrant was issued but there was no supplementary records before the Appeal court to establish that warrant of arrest was issued against Onnoghen.
“There is nothing in this appeal that requires the attention of the Appeal court, the appeal is hereby struck out,’’ Adah stressed.
Also in the third appeal filed by Onnoghen challenging the jurisdiction decision of CCT to hear a motion alongside with the main trial and deliver judgement same day, Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson agreed with the Tribunal that such was right with the new law.
According to Akomolafe-Wilson, the new law of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) allows for such action at the Tribunal.
Akomolafe-Wilson said that the position of the law when the jurisdiction of a court is challenge, the issue of jurisdiction must first be determined, adding that Section 306 of the 2015 ACJA, overrides the general principle of law in this situation.
She however dismissed the appeal.
In the fourth appeal by Onnoghen, on the refusal of the CCT to obey Federal High Court, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the National Industrial Court, Justice Peter Ige held that the Tribunal erred in law by disobeying the orders.
According to Ige, judgments, rulings, decisions and orders issued by court of law are sacrosanct and must be obeyed until they are set aside.
“Parties are bound by court orders and the order must not be treated with levity, the tribunal was bound by the order of the three courts.
“What the tribunal ought to have done was to tarry a while and make effort to set aside the courts orders to avoid state of anarchy,’’ Ige said.
According to Ige, the tribunal cannot sit as an appeal court on the decision of the high court’s and that the rule of law must be allowed to circulate for peace.
The appellate court however disagrees with Onnoghen on the request for the disqualification of the CCT chairman, and the appeal was subsequently dismissed.
Ige said that the prejudicial statement made by the CCT will not affect the main
substantive matter is pending before the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the substantive matter was still pending before the Appeal Court even though the four other appeals filed by Onnoghen had already been dismissed by the court.