The Court of Appeal in Abuja has rejected the request by suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen to stay proceedings in the charge pending against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
A three-man panel, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, in a ruling a moment ago, dismissed the application Onnoghen filed to that effect.
The court said, in view of the provision of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), it lacked the power to stay proceedings in criminal cases.
The court in a ruling on Wednesday said the request brought by Mr Onnoghen “was brought in a vacuum,” without a proper backing of legal provisions why it should have been granted.
According to the appellate court, Mr Onnoghen’s lawyers had argued that their application was brought because the tribunal, on January 14 refused to entertain their request challenging the jurisdiction of the court with other motions before proceeding with the main trial.
The court, however, read through the words used during the January 14 adjournment of the tribunal wherein the CCT slated January 22 for hearing of motions in the matter.
“Matter is hereby adjourned till Tuesday. Motions to be taken,” said Justice Abdul Aboki while reading through the tribunal’s ruling on January 14.
“The above stated decision is an adjournment for motions filed by the two parties,” the appeal court ruled.
According to the appellate court, the words used by the tribunal did not suggest the submissions made by the applicant. The court questioned the likelihood of its jurisdiction to grant such order as requested, given the evidence before it.
“A court has inherent jurisdiction to grant stay of proceedings where it is certified that enough evidence has been given for such,” said Mr Aboki who read the ruling with two other judges.
“Order for stay cannot be made in vacuum. It is a matter of law and fact,” the court ruled.
The court therefore decided that the application for stay of proceedings will not be granted and subsequently refused it.
The ruling implies that the CCT can now proceed with the trial of the chief justice for alleged false asset declaration. The CCT had postponed the trial based on last week’s directive of the appeal court.
Counsel to the CJN , Adegboyega Awomolo had filed an appeal challenging the 14th January decision of the tribunal to commence proceedings on the trial of the CJN.
Justice Onnoghen in the appeal is also challenging the CCT’s admission of the Federal Government motion asking him to step down as the CJN, pending the determination of petition.
He adjourned to February 4 this year for the hearing of the main appeal by Onnoghen.
Onnoghen is, by his appeal, challenging the ruling of the CCT, delivered on January 14 this year, adjourning for the hearing of pending applications.
He is contending that, while his challenge of the tribunal’s jurisdiction was still unresolved, the CCT cannot conduct any other business.