Some lawyers claim that NBA’s position is not in line with rule of law! Let’s now look at the rule of law and the Constitution! The Constitution says, if you want to remove or suspend a judge, you get a prior 2/3 majority support from the senate or (alternatively) a prior recommendation of the NJC. Was this complied with before CJN Onoghen was purportedly suspended? Answer is No!
Again, a court order is liable to be obeyed unless and until upturned — MILAD LAGOS V. OJUKWU. Yes, I agree, no doubt about this. But the FHC had issued three orders restraining the FG, the AGF, EFCC, CCT, from removing or suspending CJN Onoghen pending the determination of the cases before it. The NIC had made a similar order! Remember, NIC can hear cases between employer and employee. Why were these orders not obeyed? These are Superior Courts of Record. CCT is not a superior court of record.
Third, an application had been properly filed before the CCT challenging its jurisdiction to hear Onoghen’s case. Ground of objection: non compliance with the procedure laid down in NGAJIWA.
The the CCT sat on 22/01/2019 and had adjourned the case to 28 January for the CCT to hear and make a determination as to whether or not it has jurisdiction. What is the position of the law as at the 22nd day of January? It is that when a Court’s jurisdiction is properly questioned, the court has NO power to take any further steps or to make any order in the case unless and until the issue of jurisdiction is resolved. See BRONIK MOTORS v. WEMA BANK (1983)6 S.C. 158; see also OMOKHAFE v. Military Administrator (2005) 2 MJSC 173. Jurisdiction is fundamental and lack of it is fatal— OTUKPO v. JOHN (2000) 8 NWLR (669) 507 One aspect of jurisdiction is whether there is any feature (including failure to meet all conditions precedent) which prevents the court from exercising jurisdiction- see MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM (1962) 1 ALL NLR 589.
THE EFFECT OF THE LAW: The CCT after 22/01/2019 had no powers to make any order or to take any other step in respect of Onoghen’s other than a decision relating to its jurisdiction. Therefore, in my opinon, the ex parte order purportedly made by the CCT on 23/01/2019 is illegal and void and ought to not have been obeyed. Beisdes, as Femi FALANA (SAN) said, “the Court order leading to Onnoghen’s suspension is suspect.” (See https://punchng.com/court-order-leading-to-onnoghens-suspension-is-suspect-says-falana/). Is it not, I also ask? But assuming it was not illegal, why IGNORE three earlier restraining orders of the FHC and one restraining orders of the NIC —- superior courts? And the Court of Appeal’s admonition to tarry a while? Why elect to obey the illegal order of the CCT— an inferior executive Tribunal?Some say ONOGHEN was illegally removed so he shouldn’t be a judge in his own case. I say, are you aware that such admonition is appropriate only for the prosecution in Onoghen’s case.
Look at it—- 1⃣the executive is the judge because CCT is under the executive arm. 2⃣And two, the executive is the prosecutor because the prosecutors are sent by the executive— lawyers from federal ministry of justice. 3⃣And three, the executive is the Complainant (Code of Conduct Bureau). So, who is a judge in his own case in this matter? The JUDGE, the COMPLAINT, and the PROSECUTORS are all from one side. Chai!!! So, what do you say to that? *Nemo Judex In causa sua! * So, tell me, I ask again? Was Walter Onoghen properly suspended? Was the Constitution complied with? So, if the NBA NEC took a decision to boycott courts for only two days, to sound a note of protest on this injustice against the Constitution, tell me how you could validly come here to argue that NBA’s position isn’t in favour of rule of law?
If the NBA doesn’t stand up for due process and rule of law, who else do you expect to so do? And also tell me, how else do want the NBA to show its protest? To take up arms against the suspenders of Nigeria’s CJN? You’re wrong. NBA does not have a police force or python dancers. What it has (the tool at its disposal), it decided to use to register its anger against this violation of rule of law. Says ELIE WIESEL: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” That is what NBA has done! And some come here to tell me NBA’s position isn’t in tune with rule of law. How?
Then, let’s talk about the Ikorodu Chair’s perfidious directive to his branch members to flagrantly ignore the resolution duly passed by NBA’s NEC.
If you’re a member of an organization, and the organization decides to take a decision, you’ve two options. One is to say your mind during deliberations. Have your say! Sure, you’re entitled to. Voice it out. But if you’re in the minority, it means you’ve had your say while the majority would have its way! A resolution of the NBA NEC is a resolution of the majority of those present at the meeting.
There’s no way everyone in attendance was expected to have supported the decision. But once the resolution is passed by majority vote, the minority members and everyone must abide by it. That is the civilized practice all over the world. That is sanity. That’s constitutionalism. That is law. If the National Assembly passes an Act, it doesn’t mean every senators or rep supported the vote. It means majority had its way.
If a court of law takes a stand in judgement, sometimes, we have dissenting judgements. But is the dissent taken as the judgment? No, my friend. The majority opinion is the judgement of the court. Is it appropriate for the dissenting senator or rep to go about asking the world to ignore the National Assembly simply because his opinion was defeated? Abomination! Gross violation of due process! Gross insubordination! Perfidy is the right word.
If one belongs to an organization, one must respect the resolutions of the organization or one should just now out. As long as one remains within, one is liable to be subject to the organization’s rules and constitution. Breach attracts relevant sanctions. It is in this light I had humbly raised a voice of protest against the directive given by my brother, colleague and bosom friend —Ikorodu NBA Chairman! If you have a rejoinder to that position of mine, you’re welcome.
I remain, respectfully, Sylvester Udemezue
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