Lawyers in the Nigerian Legal Community waited patiently for the hour of 9:00 Clock to tick, so that the expected drama can be acted at the Tribunal.
The curiosity is with respect to whether or not the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen will be docked as expected by the prosecution team.
I was among those who queried the supposed lack of proper findings on the part of the prosecution in following due- process in trying to arraign the number one Bench-man; that, however, does not mean that I will subscribe to more lawlessness in the course of airing my voice against what I will call an abuse of the rule of law.
Just when everyone was waiting for the CJN to arrive the Tribunal, I saw a report by TheNigerialawyer (TNL) stating that the Federal High Court has restrained the Code of Conduct Tribunal from going on with the trial.
The report suggests that the Federal High Court is exercising power over the Tribunal.
The Fifth Schedule, Part I, Paragraph 15 of the Constitution provides that: “There shall be established a tribunal to be known as Code of Conduct Tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and two other persons. The Chairman shall be a person who has held or is qualified to hold office as a Judge of a Court of record in Nigeria and shall receive such remuneration as may be prescribed by law.” Paragraph 18 specifies the punishment for any contravention. It reads: “(1) Where the Code of Conduct Tribunal finds a public officer guilty of contravention of any of the provisions of this Code it shall impose upon that officer any of the punishments specified under sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph and such other punishment as may be prescribed by the National Assembly (2) The punishment which the Code of Conduct Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following: (a) vacation of office or seat in any legislative house, as the case may be; (b) disqualification from membership of a legislative house and from the holding of any public office for a period not exceeding ten years; and (c) seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired in abuse or corruption of office. (3) The sanctions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) hereof shall be without prejudice to the penalties that may be imposed by any law where the conduct is also a criminal offence.
Paragrapgh 18 (4) of the same Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution which talks about the Code of Conduct for Public officers makes it clear that decision of the Tribunal lies directly as of right to the Court of Appeal at the instance of any party to the proceedings.
The implication of this provision therefore suggests that the Federal High Court and the Code of Conduct Tribunal are courts of Coordinate Jurisdiction; not only so, the Tribunal is established by the Constitution.
It is therefore worrisome that a court of same ranking with that of Tribunal is giving an order to the Tribunal.
Section 240 of the Constitution and the abovementioned provision of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution proves that the Federal High Court is not superior to the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Except there is a superior authority to that effect, which I will gladly accept if provided, I rely on the abovementioned provisions.
We cannot swim in the ocean of lawlessness and also set a bad precedent all in the name of solidarity. While I kick against the manner in which the Federal Government is going about the trial of His Lordship, I make bold to say that Two Wrongs cannot make a right.