The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Thursday ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to stay further proceedings in the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, pending its ruling on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.The three-member panel of the appellate court gave the order after taken submissions from counsel in the application filed by the CJN seeking a stay of proceedings of the trial at the Tribunal.
Onnoghen had in the application filed on his behalf by his counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), asked the Appeal Court to restrain the CCT from going ahead with the trial slated for January 22, 2019.
Recalled that the CJN was not in court on January 14, the initial date fixed for his arraignment, citing improper service of the Tribunal summons, prompting the Tribunal to adjourn to January 22 for his arraignment and the hearing of Onnoghen’s motion challenging the Tribunal’s powers to hear and determine the matter.
While various groups and individuals had approached the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court to obtain temporary orders stopping the trial, Onnoghen on his own approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja division for an order of stay of proceedings pending the hearing and determination of his suit challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to handle the matter.Delivering ruling January 21, on the CJN’s application, the appellate court, held that there was no need for another order and adjourned till January 24 for the hearing of Onnoghen’s motion on notice.
In a short ruling yesterday, the presiding Judge, Justice Abdul Aboki ordered that “this ruling is adjourned till Wednesday, January 30, the Tribunal is ordered to stay all proceedings”.
Earlier, while moving the application on a stay of proceedings on CCT/ABJ/01/2019 between the Federal Government and the CJN, Awomolo prayed the court to grant the stay until the determination of the appeal against the order of the Tribunal made on January 14.
Onnoghen”s leaf counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) informed the Tribunal that the issue involved is jurisdictional, constitutional, and judiciary and that there is urgent need to preserve the res ( the subject matter) emphasising that the situation deserves the intervention of the Court. The subject matter is strong, unique and needs to be preserved”.
Olanipekun, who took time to narrate the history of the case and all that transpired at the Tribunal, also informed the Court of Appeal that the Tribunal had refused to obey the orders of four Courts, including the Industrial Court.
The Tribunal, he added had said it was not bound by the fact that this appeal is pending before the Court of Appeal, even as the Court of Appeal is ceased of the matter.
He, therefore, urged the court to order stay of proceedings on the matter at the CCT in the interest of the subject matter, constitution and the institution of the judiciary.
He also prayed the court for an accelerated hearing of the appeal.
In his response, counsel to the federal government, Oyin Koleoso urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the application for lack of merit, because if the appeal succeeds, it will not terminate the case before the Tribunal.
According to him, “The grievances that initiated the appeal is no longer there. If their request is granted, how then would their application be taken”.
The CCT had adjourned to January 28, for the hearing of Onnoghen’s motion on jurisdiction, after it rejected the orders of four different courts stopping the trial.
In a split judgment of two to one, the Tribunal held that the orders of the courts stopping the trial at the Tribunal were null and void, since the CCT is a unique creation of the constitution and as such cannot be subjected to the orders of the high court and industrial court being courts of equal jurisdiction.