Onnoghen as the Court of Appeal in Abuja has dismissed some appeals filed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), against some of the decisions of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in the course of his trial before the tribunal.
The court noted that, since Onnoghen was not yet arraigned as at January 23, 2019 when the ex-parte order was issued, it was wrong for the prosecution to have secretly gone behind him and his lawyers to obtain an order for his removal from office.
Despite its observation however, the court declined to set aside the order, noting that the ex-parte order was no longer of any use, since the substantive trial has been concluded.
It held that, as against the AGF’s contention, anyone dissatisfied with any decision of the CCT, whether interlocutory or substantive, is not required to first obtain the tribunal’s leave before filing an appeal.
Justice Adah said it was wrong for the prosecution to have gone back to the tribunal on January 23 to secretly obtain the order, having agreed with the other parties on the previous hearing date, for an adjournment to January 25.
He advised any party in the case, who is dissatisfied with the final judgment of the CCT, to pursue his appeal in respect of the substantive case, since the trial has been concluded.
Adah noted that although the appeal was directed at the bench warrant issued against Onnoghen by the CCT to compel his appearance, the appellant omitted to include a copy of the order of bench warrant in the record of appeal transmitted to the court.
In the appeal, Onnoghen challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him, and the motion filed by the prosecution seeking, among others, to compel the ex-CJN to vacate office while his trial lasted.
Akomolafe-Wilson dismissed the objection raised by the respondent against the appeal and held that no leave is required to file interlocutory appeal at the Court of Appeal against any decision of the CCT.
She also faulted the appellant’s argument that the only option opened to the tribunal was to first hear Onnoghen’s application challenging its jurisdiction. Akomolafe-Wilson held that such assertion was not correct in the face of the provision of Section 296(2) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
In his contribution, Adah said: “It is presumptuous, and hereby dismissed.” Justice Ige, who read judgment in the fourth appeal marked: CA/A/63C/2019 also dismissed it after resolving two of the three issues raised for determination in favour of the appellant. Ige said the reliefs sought in the appeal, which was against the CCT’s refusal to be bound by the High Courts’ orders, could no longer be granted.
He rejected the respondent’s challenge of the appeals’ competence and held that Section 246 of the Constitution gave appellant the unimpeded right to appeal the decisions of the CCT without obtaining the tribunal’s leave. Ige said it was wrong for the CCT to have refused to obey the restraining orders given by Justices Evelyn Maha (of the Federal High Court), Sanusi Kado (National Industrial Court), Valentine Ashi (High Court of the Federal Capital Territory) and Inyang Ekwo (Federal High Court) in January this year. The judges had shortly before Onnoghen’s arraignment before the CCT issued the orders stopping the exCJN’s trial pending the determination of the various suits before them, challenging the competence of the charge filed against Onnoghen before the CCT. Ige, in further faulting the CCT, said: “The law is that any judgment or ruling of any court remains sacrosanct and valid until set aside. “The lower tribunal was bound by the orders immediately when its attention was drawn to them.
While speaking after the judgments, Onnoghen’s lawyer, George Ibrahim, said his client intends to challenge the decisions at the Supreme Court. “This is not the end of the road for my client. We will appeal to the Supreme Court. We still have three appeals pending before this court (Court of Appeal.) “Is it not surprising that the CCT Chairman that went about the trial with speed is yet to release copies of the final judgment to us? We are yet to get copies of the final judgement that was delivered on April 18 this year,” Ibrahim said.