Onnoghen: Tribunal suspends hearing on jurisdiction

…Orders daily hearing

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Monday ruled on the application challenging its jurisdiction in the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen’s case, saying the matter has been reserved till the end of the hearing.

After deciding on the application challenging its jurisdiction, the tribunal also ordered that the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, shall continue on a daily basis.

The tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, who presided over two other members of the bench gave the ruling and ordered the continuation of the matter on Tuesday.

 Onnoghen is facing trial for alleged false declaration of asset having been controversially suspended on January 25 by President Muhammadu Buhari and replaced by the current acting CJN, Muhammad Tanko.

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Citing relevant Section 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) at the resumed trial on Monday, Umar held that court decision would provide for a speedy dispensation of criminal matters before it.

Umar said the tribunal would in its subsequent hearing entertain other applications brought by the prosecution lawyer, Aliu Umar, on Monday and reserve ruling, in a like manner.

Meanwhile,  Onnoghen’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo, had reminded the tribunal of their application challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal on the grounds that the NJC is the body empowered by law to try serving judicial officers.

Mr Awomolo told the tribunal of its previous ruling in the case of a Supreme Court Justice Sylvester Ngwuta who was discharged of false asset allegations on account of another ruling by the Appeal Court which ordered that only the NJC was empowered to first indict a serving judicial officer, before he can be tried in any court of law.

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Awomolo described the tribunal ruling in Ngwuta’s case as a ruling in line with constitutional provision and asked the tribunal to follow the dictates of that ruling since it has not been contested by the prosecution.

Also reacting, the prosecution lawyer, Umar Aliyu, asked for an extension of the ex-parte motion seeking the suspension of  Onnoghen and demanded that the tribunal revisits the application.

According to Umar, the ruling discharging Ngwuta was not duly brought to the knowledge of his clients and argued that if the reason adduced by Awomolo was the reason for the discharge of  Ngwuta, “the tribunal should not continue in its error of aligning with the appeal court ruling in the case of Nganjiwa.”

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In a ruling after parties had concluded their arguments, Umar said the matter deserved utmost dispatch and ruled that the case be continued on a daily basis.

“In respect of section 296 (2) of the ACJA it is very clear that motions will be reserved till the time of the delivery of judgment. The tribunal deems it fit to treat the motion with utmost dispatch hence, the need for a speedy trial.

“The tribunal has ordered that all rulings needed could be ruled upon with the substantive matter. The hearing of the substantive matter shall proceed day by day.

Umar said his ruling was in compliance with the provisions of the ACJA and the practice direction of the tribunal, paragraph 5.

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