The National Judicial Council (NJC) will today meet to look at the replies to the queries it issued to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed., Nigerian Tribune reports
The Council, at its meeting held on January 29, 2019, directed Justice Onnoghen to respond to a petition by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education, while Justice Mohammed was directed to respond to two petitions by the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
The petition against the suspended CJN Onnoghen border on alleged non-declaration of assets, which was the case brought against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja after an earlier petition by Dennis Aghanya of the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI).
The acting CJN Mohammed is facing allegations by Agbakoba of presenting himself to be sworn-in as acting CJN without the recommendation of the NJC.
A statement by the Director of Information of the NJC, Spji Oye at the end of the Council’s emergency meeting last month said, in line with its procedure, NJC forwarded the petitions against Justices Onnoghen, and Tanko Muhammad to them for their responses.
He said: “In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from fourteen to seven working days for the Justices to respond”, Soji disclosed in the statement.
Both Onnoghen and Muhammad recused themselves from the emergency meeting and consequently, Council elected former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting.
The federal government had slammed a six-count charge, bordering on non-declaration of assets against Justice Onnoghen before the Umar led CCT.
President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended Onnoghen and swore-in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as acting CJN, on the strength of an ex parte order by the CCT.
The action of the federal government was condemned by lawyers and civil society organisations.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), while condemning Onnoghen’s suspension, directed its members to boycott the court for two days.
Meanwhile, Onnoghen had rushed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to challenge the jurisdiction of the CCT to try him on the charge preferred against him by the federal government.
The suspended CJN, who is yet to be arraigned before the CCT, has asked the chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Yakubu Umar to hands-off from further participating in the hearing of his case on grounds of likelihood of bias.
He alleged that the chairman had constructively convicted him without hearing him or formally arraigning him before the tribunal.
Onnoghen stated that the CCT chairman is a tainted arbiter because he is facing a bribery charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and could trade the charge to convict him for a plea bargaining.
Recalled that the NJC had referred the petition against the CCT chairman by the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.
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