Appeal Court faulted Onnoghen’s suspension, strikes out his four appeals
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Friday faulted the suspension of Justice Samuel Nkanu Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), as well as chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) on the ground that the suspension order as given by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) violates the law of natural justice.
It however refused to issue a consequential order in that direction as it struck out the four appeals he brought before the appellate court.
The panel, however, stressed that it had yet to determine Onnoghen’s appeal against his conviction by the CCT.
The appellate court held that the manner in which the order for the suspension of Onnoghen was issued was shrouded in secrecy and raised questions.
Justice Stephen Adah, in a judgment in one of the four appeals filed by Onnoghen held that justice must not be shrouded in secrecy as done in the granting of the ex-parte application of the federal government.
Faulting the suspension, the court held that it was wrong in law for merit of a substantive matter to be taken at the interlocutory stage.
The appellate court said, from the record of proceedings, parties have joined issues, only for the federal government to go behind to take order that affected the interest of the appellant adding that Onnoghen’s fundamental right to fair hearing was breached.
The court however, declined to make any order against the suspension because Onnoghen’s trial had been concluded and that an appeal on the substantive trial is pending before the court.
“Since the ex-parte order had been spent and cannot serve any useful purpose and judgment in the substantive trial had been delivered, the appeal is hereby struck out”, Justice Adah held.
Justice Adah in another appeal filed by Onnoghen on the bench warrant issued against him by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) struck out the appeal on the ground that the records of proceedings transmitted to the court did not show that bench warrant was issued and that there was no supplementary records to establish that warrant for arrest was issued.
“There is nothing in this appeal that requires the attention of the court, it is here by struck out”, Justice Adah held.
In the third appeal, which challenged the CCT’s decision to hear a motion challenging jurisdiction along with the main trial and deliver judgment same day, Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson agreed with the Tribunal that the new law allows the action of the Tribunal.
Justice Wilson said that the general principle of law is that when jurisdiction of a court is challenged, the issue of jurisdiction must be first determined, but said that the specific legislation in Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 over rides the general principle of law. She therefore dismissed the appeal.
In the fourth appeal by Onnoghen, on the refusal of the CCT to obey Federal High Court, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the National Industrial Court, Justice Peter Ige held that the Tribunal erred in law by disobeying the orders.
He said judgments, rulings, decisions and orders issued by court of law are sacrosanct and must be obeyed until they are set aside.
“Parties are bound by court orders and the order must not be treated with levity”, Justice Ige further said and added the Tribunal was bound by the order of the three courts.
He said, what the Tribunal ought to have done was to tarry a while and make effort to set aside the court orders to avoid foisting anarchy.
Justice Ige held that the Tribunal cannot sit as an appeal court on the decision of the high courts, saying that, the rule of law must be allowed to circulate for peace.
The appellate court however disagreed with Onnoghen on the request for the disqualification of the CCT chairman, Danladi Yakubu Umar, on the allegation of making prejudicial statement adding that it was not established that the prejudicial statement made by the CCT boss will affect the outcome of the main trial.