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Update On CJN Onnoghen's Court Case

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Wednesday reserved judgments in the four separate appeals filed by the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnghen, in connection with his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The suspended CJN, had, by one of his appeals, challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the non-declaration of assets charges instituted against him before the CCT.

Another of the appeals challenged the ex-parte order which
President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to suspend the CJN and appointed Justice Tanko Muhammad as the acting CJN. The third appeal challenged the CCT’s refusal to be bound by the orders made by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court directing the tribunal to halt the CJN’s trial.

The last one asked the court to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him by the CCT on February 13.

On Wednesday, a three-man bench of the court, led by Justice Steven Adah, finally heard the four appeals and reserved judgments after the cases had been previously adjourned on three occasions.

Justice Adah, who led Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Justice Peter Ige, said the date for judgments would be communicated to the parties.

At the Wednesday’s hearing, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) led the suspended CJN’s legal team, but yielded the floor to Chief Chris Uche (SAN), a member of the team, to make a short oral argument in support of the briefs filed.

The Federal Government’s team was led by Mr Aliyu Umar (SAN), who also argued the respondent’s briefs and the notices of preliminary objection filed against Onnoghen’s appeals.

In his argument, Uche urged the court to dismiss the notices of preliminary objection filed against the appeals and grant the prayers in them.

He also urged the court to “examine” the circumstances leading to the granting of the ex parte order, which he said did not show that any lawyer applied for it.

He added, “The order has a far-reaching consequence on the rule of law; ought not to have been made ex parte.

“We urge your lordships to set aside that ex parte order which asked the appellant to step aside and allow this appeal.”

On his part, Aliyu urged the Court of Appeal to uphold his notices of preliminary objection to the appeals, which he said lacked merit.

He added that the court could not “examine” the circumstances surrounding the CCT’s ex parte order, as neither the appellant nor the respondent exhibited the ex parte application which led to the granting of the tribunal’s order.

Umar said, “Neither of the parties had exhibited the ex parte application, which we all admitted was filed – we did not file it, they did not file it too.
“Therefore, there is no sufficient material to enable your lordships to look into the circumstances surrounding the granting of the order.”

But Uche, in his further reply, said since there was no doubt that the ex parte application was filed. The record of the CCT’s January 23 proceedings when the CCT granted the order was exhibited and served as enough material for the court to conduct its examination into how the CCT issued the order.

The Danladi Umar-led CCT had, however, on February 15 withdrew the arrest warrant following Justice Onnoghen’s appearance before the tribunal.

The tribunal had fixed March 11 for the hearing of other pending applications filed by Onnoghen, who had pleaded not guilty to the six counts instituted against him.

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