THE Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Thursday, ordered the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, to stay further proceedings on the six-count charge the Federal Government preferred against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The appellate court ordered the Mr Danladi Umar’s led tribunal to temporarily hands-off the matter till January 30, a date is fixed to deliver a ruling on an appeal the embattled CJN lodged before it.
A three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court led by Justice Abdul Aboki, gave the order after it listened to counsel to the CJN and that of FG, regarding what transpired at the tribunal last Tuesday.
When the matter was called up, counsel to the CJN, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who led 18 other Senior Advocates of Nigeria, traced the history of the case for the appellate court panel.
Olanipekun told the appellate court that FG had on January 11, through the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, commenced what it termed as an investigation of information contained in the assets declaration forms that were submitted by the CJN.
He said: “My lords, on that same day, the charge was filed before the CCT. By the next Monday, being January 14, the tribunal issued a summon for the Appellant to appear. On that same day, the Appellant filed an appeal to challenge the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
“Likewise, the Respondent, on the same day, filed a motion asking the Applicant to step aside from office pending the determination of the substantive trial and for President Muhammadu Buhari to be compelled by the tribunal to swear in the most senior jurist of the Supreme Court as the acting CJN”.
He said in view of the development, the tribunal, on January 14 which was the first day the case came up before it, ruled that it would take both the applications by the CJN and that of FG together.
Olanipekun said the CJN who was dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, promptly filed a motion before the appellate court on January 18, as well as adduced eight exhibits to show why his motion and that of the prosecution should not be heard the same time.
In the said motion, the CJN prayed the appellate court to stay further proceedings in respect of charge No.CCT/ABJ/01/2019, pending against him before the CCT.
He urged the court to suspend further action on his trial, pending the determination of his appeal.
Olanipekun told the appellate court that regardless of four separate court injunctions that stopped further action on the matter pending determination of legal issues surrounding both the competence of the charge and jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain same, the CCT Chairman, in a ruling last Tuesday, insisted on proceeding with the trial.
He told the court that aside from Mr. Umar’s position that the CCT was not bound by orders from both the high court and the National Industrial Court, he equally refused to temporarily hands-off the matter to await the outcome of the CJN’s appeal.