Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has today refused to obey the exparte orders of the Federal High Court (FHC) and the National Industrial (NIC) which have restrained it from prosecuting Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Justice Danladi held that CCT ranked equal with FHC and NIC. With profound respect this position is skewed. I am finding myself unable to agree with the ruling of CCT. The tribunal must have misdirected itself in law.
The Supreme Court has settled the issue of the status of the CCT in the case of METUH V. FRN (2017) ALL FWLR PT. 901 wherein it stated as follow:
“This court (the Supreme Court) pronounced also in Olubukola Saraki v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1500) SC 531 that *the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is not a court of superior record of jurisdiction, but a court of quasi-criminal jurisdiction.”
How do we reconcile the above wisdom of the Apex Court with the ruling of the CCT? Do we follow the decision of the Supreme Court or that of the Tribunal? In the light of the decision of the Supreme Court above, how possible is it for CCT to be court of coordinate jurisdiction with Superior Courts of Record, in this instance, FHC and NIC?
CCT seemed to have made heavy weather of section 246 of the constitution which provides for appeals from CCT to Court of Appeal. In my view this cannot still help the decision of the CCT. I say so because if we are to accede to such reasoning, the result would produce an awkward situation where Appeal Committee of Body of Benchers will start claiming superiority over Superior Courts of Record, not even equality, simply because appeals from it go to Supreme Court. Other tribunals like Accountants Disciplinary Tribunal and Medical and Dental Practitioners Tribunal will also begin to claim equality with Superior Courts of Record simply because appeal from both of them go to Court of Appeal. Can that be the intention of the framers of the constitution and lawmakers?
We need to ask ourselves questions. Why did the constitution establish CCT as a tribunal? Was it a typographical error on the part of the drafters of the constitution?
A tribunal is a tribunal. No matter how highly placed a tribunal is, it is inferior to the FHC and NIC and subject to their supervisory jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeal did not mince words. In National Electoral Commission (N.E.C) v. Nzeribe (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt 192) it held as follows:
“A tribunal, no matter how highly clothed with power is still a tribunal and so an inferior Court and subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of a superior court of record, such as the High Court of Lagos. Section 6(5)(h) (now k) of the Constitution makes this clear.” Per AWOGU, J.C.A (Pp. 29-30, paras. G-A)
In the light of the foregoing, it is my view that the ruling of the CCT will not survive an appeal. But most importantly, any decision on the issue by the Apex Court will expand the frontiers of our jurisprudence.
The battle that engulfed NIC then is still fresh in our memory. It was a constitutional amendment that saved the situation. Perhaps another constitutional amendment clearly recognizing CCT as a Superior Court of Record under section 6(5)(a)to(i) is the only solution even in the current situation.
O G Chukkol is a student, Faculty of Law, ABU, Zaria firstname.lastname@example.org
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