The Court of Appeal in Abuja has stopped the Code of Conduct Tribunal from proceeding with the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, over alleged false asset declaration.
The three-man panel granted the interim order pending ruling on the CJN’s application for stay of proceedings.
The Federal High Court, Abuja, and National Industrial Court had given orders to the CCT to stop the trial of the nation’s judicial offer over the alleged false declaration of assets.
But the CCT held that the courts were of coordinate jurisdiction with the tribunal and so lacked powers to direct or supervise its proceedings.
The CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, said these while rejecting a motion by Onnoghen asking the tribunal to adjourn indefinitely based on the High Court and the NICN’s orders that the parties must maintain the status quo.
He gave the ruling in a split decision of two to one. While Justice William Atedze gave the dissenting judgement, Justice Julie Anabor agreed with the tribunal chairman.
Meanwhile, Onnoghen was again absent from the hearing on Tuesday.
Justice Umar rejected the submission by the Defence Counsel led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that the tribunal should adjourn indefinitely based on the orders of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and the NICN which ordered the parties to maintain the status quo pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Olanipekun also argued that the tribunal should adjourn because the matter was already before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
But noting that the Court of Appeal had yet to issue any order, the CCT chair agreed with the complainant’s counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), that the judgement cited were from courts of equal status with the tribunal as a court of superior record.
Justice Umar said, “This is because the tribunal is established by the constitution under the third schedule to adjudicate on matters of asset declaration.
“Therefore any order from any court directing it not to carry out its duty is in crystal violation of the constitution.”
Justice Umar said an appeal from the tribunal could only go to the Court of Appeal.
The tribunal adjourned sitting till January 28 for the hearing of Onnoghen’s preliminary objection where he is challenging the jurisdiction of the court.