Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has advised the chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Justice Dankadi Umar to respond to the query issued and served on him by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

“If he fails to reply the query the Federal Judicial Service Commission may wish to recommend his removal from office to the National Judicial Council pursuant to paragraph 13 (a) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution 1999 which will in turn make appropriate recommendations to the President”, he said.

Falana recalled that while dismissing the allegation of judicial misconduct arising from the circumstances surrounding the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar has questioned the power of the Federal Judicial Service Commission to query him.

“According to him, the Code of Conduct Tribunal is under the Presidency and as such the Chairman and the two other members of the Tribunal only report to the President of the Republic. To justify his queer position, Justice Umar said that a former Chief Justice had warned the members of the Tribunal to stop calling themselves judges.

But in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday Falana contended that the “CCT is not under the Presidency”.

Falana stated the Federal Judicial Commission was perfectly in order when it queried the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal with respect to the allegation of judicial misconduct leveled against him.

He stated that .unlike ministers and staff in the Presidency who can be removed by the President, the Chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal cannot not be removed from office by the President except upon an address supported by two-thirds majority of each of the House of the National Assembly on grounds of misconduct or for contravention of the code of conduct for public officers.

He said the retirement age of Chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is 70 years like Justices of the appellate courts adding that they cannot be removed from office before attaining the prescribed retirement age’

He explained that the power of the Federal Judicial Service Commission to recommend to the National Judicial Council the removal of the Chairman and members of the CCT cannot be exercised without conducting an inquiry into the allegation of judicial misconduct involving federal judicial officers.

The statement stated in part: “With respect, the Chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal are recognised as judicial officers by the Constitution. For the avoidance of doubt, the Tribunal Chairman shall “be a person who has held or is qualified to hold office as a Judge of a superior court of record in Nigeria …”

“By virtue of section 36 (1) of the Constitution the Code of Conduct Tribunal shall be constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”, he stated.

He regretted that a Tribunal established by the Constitution as an independent juridical organ of the Federation has conveniently reduced itself to an appendage of the Presidency.

“Apart from the Chairman and members who are appointed by the President on the advice of the National Judicial Council, the staff of the Tribunal are not appointed or seconded by the Presidency.

“It is expressly stated in the Constitution that the power to appoint the staff of the Tribunal and to exercise disciplinary control over them shall vest in the members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and shall be exercisable in accordance with an Act of the National Assembly. Contrary to the embarrassing position of the Tribunal Chairman, Paragraph F of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution, 1999 as amended provides that the Federal Judicial Service Commission shall advise the National Judicial Council in nominating persons for appointment and removal of federal judicial officers including the Chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

“Paragraph 15 of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution provides that the President shall appoint the Chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council”, he stated.

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