The legal team of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to challenge his assets declaration breaches-related charges and the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s order suspending him by the Court of Appeal is giving them deep sense of worry.
A three-man bench of the court, led by Justice Stephen Adah, had on February 27, 2019, heard the appeals and reserved judgments promising to communicate the date of the judgments to parties whenever they were ready.
The wait, which is now a cause of worry to some associates of the embattled CJN, clocked one month on March 27.
Although the constitution gives a court a period not more than three months to deliver its decision after the hearing of any application or a suit, Onnoghen’s people said they were concerned that one month had passed without the Court of Appeal’s judgments on the embattled CJN’s appeals.
Onnoghen’s lead defence counsel in the ongoing trial at CCT, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), expressed disappointment about the delayed judgments of the Court of Appeal.
He said, “We are highly disappointed that the Court of Appeal has not delivered its judgments on the appeals by the CJN despite the far-reaching constitutional implication of the appeals.
“This is a case that affects the judiciary, but things have slowed down at the Court of Appeal.”
But the prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Umar (SAN), who also argued against the appeals on behalf of the Federal Government, dismissed the concerns expressed by the defence on Sunday.
“The Court of Appeal has three months within which to give judgments, and they are still within their right, as long as they don’t exceed three months,” Umar said.
Lawyers and aides involved in his defence were said to be particularly worried about what seemed to be the Court of Appeal loss of the zeal as opposed to how the appellate court initially handled the suspended CJN’s appeals in the wake of the charges instituted against him before the CCT.
Onnoghen’s camp on Sunday said the speed with which the CCT and the National Judicial Council were handling the trials of the embattled CJN showed that the Court of Appeal’s judgment might not come until after the trial ongoing at the tribunal.
While the CCT on Friday ordered Onnoghen to open his defence on Monday (today), it was gathered that the NJC would soon convoke its plenary to deliberate on the reports of its five-man investigation panel which concluded its probe of Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, last week
An associate of the suspended CJN, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “For unclear reasons, the Court of Appeal has yet to deliver its judgments on the appeals which will at least validate or invalidate the trial going on at the CCT and the ex parte order issued by the tribunal to suspend the CJN.
“Of what use will the judgments be if they come after the conclusion of the trial at the CCT?”
Adding to the worry of the people around Onnoghen was the Friday’s ruling of the CCT which dismissed his no-case submission mainly on the grounds that his “admission” in his statement made to the Code of Conduct Tribunal warranted him to offer an explanation to the tribunal.
While the trial before the CCT is nearing conclusion, the judgments of the Court of Appeal on four separate appeals challenging various aspects of the CCT proceedings have been pending for over one month.
The suspended CJN had, by one of his appeals, challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the non-declaration of assets charges instituted against him before the CCT.
The other major appeal is the one challenging the ex parte order on which President Muhammadu Buhari relied to suspend the CJN and appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad as the acting CJN.