Today upon an oral application moved by the Prosecutor Mr. UMAR (SAN) the Hon Judge of the CCT Mr. Danladi Umar issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen.

No matter on what side of the divide you stand you cannot stand for the open flagrant breach of the law. We all know that Justice Onnoghen through his lawyers filed a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to try him.

That application has not been taken. The law is that where the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal is challenged it must first determine that application one way or another. Such an application is an interlocutory application.

In S. 266 (b) the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provides as follows,
266. A defendant shall subject to the provisions of S. 135 of this Act be present in court during the whole of his trial UNLESS,
(a) xxxxxx
(b) at the hearing of an interlocutory application.

This clear express provision of the ACJA is in consonance with established authorities like Ezeze v State ( 2006) and B.B Apugo v F R N (2017).

The question then is where did the CCT get its powers to issue a bench warrant to compel the attendance of the defendant at the hearing of an interlocutory application?

We have clearly entered uncharted territory where the Chairman of a Tribunal no longer needs to follow the law. Where he can disobey the express provisions of the law and follow his own caprices as to what his tribunal can do in the face of the law.

We are watching the head on collision of law and injudicious caprices in slow motion.

Again S. 37 of the ACJA provides that an application for a warrant of arrest shall NOT be issued in the first instance in respect of any complaint unless the complaint is on oath.
This rules out an oral application.

I wish the 20 SANs who cried out a few weeks ago calling for reforms of the judiciary would notice this monumental deviation from the norms of common law and utter destruction of the rule of law and also speak up against the desecration of the temple of justice, but alas, it is understandable if their reform does not include opposition to minor deviations like this one.

So we watch in slow motion.

E. O. Jakpa, can be reached at japsmanuel@gmail.com.

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