The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday, challenged the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja, to try him over his alleged failure to declare his assets.
The CJN, who stalled his planned arraignment following his refusal to appear before the Justice Danladi Umar’s led three-member panel tribunal, was however represented by a consortium of 89 lawyers that comprised of 46 Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
The legal team, which was led by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, told the tribunal that their appearance at the proceeding was “in protest.”
Olanipekun told the tribunal that the CJN has already filed a motion dated January 14, to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the charges FG levelled against him.
“My lord, we are not just challenging jurisdiction, we are even challenging the jurisdiction of this tribunal to even sniff that charge. We have served the Complainant/Respondent”, Olanipekun submitted.
Though the said motion was not moved, nevertheless, a member of the team who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said the CJN would capitalise on FG’s failure to channel the petition against him, as well as the outcome of the investigation that was purportedly conducted on his assets declaration forms by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to the National Judicial Council, NJC, before it rushed the case to the CCT.
The CJN is contending that FG’s failure to abide by existing judicial precedent as encapsulated in a recent Appeal Court’s decision in Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), to the effect that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer, must first be reported to and handled by the NJC, pursuant to the provisions of the laws.
He argued that only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer could prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed to initiate a criminal proceeding.
Consequently, placing reliance on a recent decision of the CCT on a similar charge FG lodged against another Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, the CJN’s legal team, maintained that FG’s decision to sideline the NJC, stripped the tribunal of its jurisdiction to entertain the instant case.