The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Monday said restraining orders from three courts barring it from continuing the trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) were unconstitutional.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Umar Danladi made the remark in a ruling to determine the constitutionality of those restraining orders made by the courts.
The Federal High Court, FCT High Court and the National Industrial Court at various times in Abuja gave the restraining orders halting the trial of the CJN pending the determination of suits bearing Danladi as defendant.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that some defendants in the three suits included the President, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CBB).
Danladi held that the three courts had no supervisory roles on the tribunal, adding that the tribunal was not under obligation to stop its constitutional duties over decisions of co-ordinate courts as the tribunal.
“The orders of the Federal High Court, National Industry Court and the FCT High Court are not bidding on the tribunal.
“This is because the tribunal is established by the Constitutional to adjudicate on allegations of non-assets declaration just as the Code of Conduct Bureau is established to prosecute those who failed to declare their assets.
“Court orders not emanating from a superior court have no constitutional powers to restrain the tribunal from performing its functions. These orders presented are null and void.
“The tribunal shall therefore go ahead to continue with the proceedings involving the Federal Government and Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)’’, he said.
At the resumed session, Malam Aliyu Umar (SAN) the Prosecutor informed the tribunal of the readiness of the prosecution to commence it case.
Umar had asked the tribunal to show proof that Onnoghen was served personally as he expressed worries on the absence of the defendant.
NAN reports that the Registrar of the tribunal went on to confirm that the CJN was duly served on Jan.14.
NAN also recalls that the tribunal had on Jan. 14 fixed Jan. 22 to entertain two interlocutory motions filed by counsel to the parties.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to Onnoghen had filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the six-count charge brought before it against the CJN.
The prosecution on the other hand had filed a motion praying the tribunal to order Onnoghen to step aside as the CJN pending the determination of the criminal charges filed against him.
Olanipekun had informed the tribunal of the three subsisting orders that restrained Danladi from continuing with proceedings.
Olanipekun, who cited various legal precedents to substantiate his argument, also said the defendant had appealed against the Jan.14 decision of the tribunal to hear the matter.
He said the tribunal chairman must do well to respect the hierarchy of courts by restraining himself from continuing with the matter until the Court of Appeal, Abuja, had made its pronouncement.
The prosecutor had objected to Olanipekun’s submission, adding that the focus should have been why the CJN absented himself from the proceedings.
The prosecutor also said he could had asked the tribunal for a bench warrant of arrest to be issued on the CJN, but that his team would continue to show respect to Onnoghen.
He said it was incumbent on the defendant to respect the sanctity of the rule of law to appear and stand justice without further delay.
The chairman of the tribunal, therefore, adjourned until Jan.28 for continuation of proceedings.