The Court of Appeal Abuja on Wednesday dismissed an application filed by Justice Walter Onnoghen, suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to stay proceedings on his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) filed a six-count charge against Onnoghen on allegations of non-assets declaration.
Justice Abdul Aboki, leading two other justices of the court in an unanimous decision, held that Section 306 of the Administration of Court Justice 2015 prevented the granting of stay on criminal trials.
Aboki, therefore, said the applicant had the duty to return to the tribunal to stand justice.
He said the earlier stay of proceedings granted on Jan. 24 to enable the court consider the Notice on Motion for stay had lapsed.
The judge, however, said the applicant’s Notice of Appeal challenging the tribunal’s decision to hear two of the Federal Government’s motions together had been filed before it.
He said the new appeal was challenging an exparte order made by the tribunal that led to Onnoghen’s suspension as the CJN and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The judge said the appeal was also challenging the decision of the President to appoint an Acting CJN and Chairman of the NJC.
“In the circumstance, the court hereby adjourns the hearing of the appeal until Feb.4.’’
NAN recalls that the government had in a motion before the tribunal asked for an order for Onnoghen to step aside as the CJN.
The government also sought the tribunal’s order to empower the President to swear in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as Acting CJN.
The stance of the tribunal to entertain the abovementioned motions together led Onnoghen to file the motion for stay of his trial pending the determination of his motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Counsel to Onnoghen had approached the appellate court praying for an order restraining the tribunal from continuing with the matter.
Olanipekun insisted that his client’s motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal should be treated first before any other proceeding could happen.
Malam Umar Aliyu (SAN), Counsel to the Federal Government, had objected to such order of trial, adding that the defendant must take his plea by being arraigned before any motion could be heard.
Aliyu had also argued that the prosecution’s application urging the tribunal to order the stepping aside of the CJN pending the determination of the petition should also be entertained immediately after Onnoghen had taken his plea.
According to him, nothing stops the tribunal from also hearing his client’s motion asking for an order to allow the president appoint an Acting CJN pending the determination of the case.
NAN recalls that the tribunal had on Jan. 28 adjourned indefinitely for the appellate court to determine the motion challenging its decision to continue with the trial. (NAN)