…….fixes Jan. 30 to rule on Justice Onnoghen’s appeal

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, has on Thursday, the 24th of January, 2019, ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal to stay action in the false assets declaration suit filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, pending the determination of the appeal before the Court.

The appellate court ordered the Mr. Danladi Umar’s led tribunal to temporarily hands-off the matter till January 30, a date it fixed to deliver ruling on an appeal the embattled CJN lodged before it.

A three man panel of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Hon Justice Abdul Aboki has ordered CCT to stay action in the ongoing trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, pending the hearing and determination of the case on Appeal.

The appellate court said its order shall be in place until Wednesday, January 30 2019 when it plans to give ruling on the CJN’s motion.

Justice Aboki said: “This ruling (on the CJN’s motion that was argued) is adjourned till Wednesday, January 30. The tribunal is ordered to stay all proceedings.”

While arguing the motion, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led the CJN’s legal team, prayed the court to grant the applicant’s request for a stay in the proceedings before the CCT pending the determination of the appeal.

The CJN is, by his appeal, challenging the competence of the order made by the CCT on January 14 this year, in which it elected to hear pending applications, which included the application by the CJN, challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction and the application by the prosecution, seeking to compel Onnoghen to step aside pending the conclusion of hearing in the charge filed against him.

Olanipekun stressed, before the Court of Appeal on Thursday, that the issue involved was jurisdictional, constitutional, and that it also involves the Judiciary.

He said there was the urgent need for the appellate court to preserve the res (the subject of the dispute).

Olanipekun further stressed that the situation deserves the intervention of the court.

He said: “The subject is strong, unique and needs to be preserved.”

Olanipekun took the court through the history of the case and all that has so far transpired at the tribunal.

He told the court that the tribunal has refused to obey restraining orders issued against it by four different High Courts.

Olanipekun told the court that the tribunal said it was not bound by the fact that the CJN’s appeal was pending before the Court of Appeal and that the appellate court has even fixed a date for hearing.

He prayed the court to order a stay of proceedings at the CCT “in the interest of the subject matter, the Constitution and the institution of the Judiciary.”

Olanipekun equally prayed the court for an accelerated hearing of the appeal.

In his counter-argument, lawyer to the respondent (the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Oyin Koleoso (from the Federal Ministry of Justice) urged the court to dismiss the motion.

Koleoso argued that the motion by the CJN lacked merit. He noted that even if the appeal by the CJN succeeds, it cannot terminate the case before the tribunal.

He added: “The grievances that led the appellant to initiate the appeal is no longer there.

“If their request is granted, how then would their application be taken?”

Meanwhile, the attempt by Onnoghen to compile and transmit records of the CCT’s proceedings seems to have hit a brick wall as the Registrar of the CCT, Hajia Bintu Abubakar, says there is no electricity to print the rulings for certification.

The compilation and transmission of records of the CCT proceedings is a condition precedent for the hearing of any appeal.

In an affidavit deposed to by George Ibrahim on behalf of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Ogwu Onoja (SAN), the lawyer said the registrar’s failure to make the certified true copy had stalled the appeal.

He said, “Based on the CCT registrar’s undertaking, I immediately applied for the certified true copy of the proceedings and rulings of January 22, 2019.

“As early as 8am on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, I went to the registry of the CCT to file notice of appeal and also applied for the certified true copy of the notice of appeal and also with the intention and hope of obtaining rulings and the records of proceedings earlier applied for but I was disappointed.

“That I was in the CCT from 8am till 5.30pm on January 23, 2019 without obtaining the certified true copies of the rulings and records of proceedings.

“That I was informed by Hajia Bintu Abubakar, the Registrar of the CCT, that although she had undertaken to make available the certified true copies of the rulings, she was unable to do so as there was no electricity either from the public power supply or the CCT’s generator thereby denying the appellant certified true copy of the rulings and records of January 22, 2019.”

The CCT had on Monday refused to stop the trial of Onnoghen who is facing charges of false declaration of assets.

The tribunal had argued that the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court were courts of concurrent jurisdiction and thus could not grant an order restraining the CCT.

The Court of Appeal on Thursday, however, ordered the CCT to stay proceedings in the case against the CJN.

A panel of the Abuja division of the Appeal Court led by Abdul Aboki directed the tribunal to stay proceedings pending the hearing and determination of the CJN’s application.

The inability of the CCT registrar to make copies available to the defence may, however, stall the appeal.

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