Eniola Akinkuotu and Kamarudeen Ogundele, Abuja
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has stopped the Code of Conduct Tribunal from proceeding with hearing in the charges of false assets declaration filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The three-man panel on Thursday granted the interim order pending ruling on the Onnoghen’s application for stay of proceedings fixed for January 30.
Delivering the ruling presiding Justice Abdul Aboki ordered that, “This ruling is adjourned till Wednesday, January 30. The tribunal is ordered to stay all proceedings pending the ruling on this application.”
While moving the application for a stay of proceedings, Onnoghen through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had prayed the court to grant the stay of proceedings at the CCT pending hearing and determination of the appeal against the order of the tribunal made on January 14.
Olanipekun submitted that the issue involved was jurisdictional, constitutional, and judicial, adding that there was an urgent need to preserve the res (the subject matter) of the case.
“The subject is strong, unique and needs to be preserved,” he said.
Olanipekun reported that the tribunal went ahead to hear the matter on Tuesday despite being made a party in four judgements obtained at the Federal High Court, FCT High Court and the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
Besides, he said the tribunal ought to have stayed proceedings in the matter having been informed of the pendency of the appeal at the Court of Appeal.
He therefore urged the court to order a stay of proceedings on the matter at the CCT in the interest of the subject matter, constitution and the judiciary.
He also prayed the court for an accelerated hearing of the appeal.
In the interim, Olanipekun prayed the court to stop the CCT from hearing the matter.
Responding, counsel for the Federal Government, Oyin Koleoso, urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the application for lack of merit.
According to him, if the appeal succeeds it will not terminate the case before the tribunal.
“This appeal can’t form the basis of a stay of proceedings at the tribunal,” he said.
Meanwhile, the attempt by Onnoghen to compile and transmit records of the CCT’s proceedings seems to have hit a brick wall as the Registrar of the CCT, Hajia Bintu Abubakar, says there is no electricity to print the rulings for certification.
The compilation and transmission of records of the CCT proceedings is a condition precedent for the hearing of any appeal.
In an affidavit deposed to by George Ibrahim on behalf of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Ogwu Onoja (SAN), the lawyer said the registrar’s failure to make the certified true copy had stalled the appeal.
He said, “Based on the CCT registrar’s undertaking, I immediately applied for the certified true copy of the proceedings and rulings of January 22, 2019.
“As early as 8am on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, I went to the registry of the CCT to file notice of appeal and also applied for the certified true copy of the notice of appeal and also with the intention and hope of obtaining rulings and the records of proceedings earlier applied for but I was disappointed.
“That I was in the CCT from 8am till 5.30pm on January 23, 2019 without obtaining the certified true copies of the rulings and records of proceedings.
“That I was informed by Hajia Bintu Abubakar, the Registrar of the CCT, that although she had undertaken to make available the certified true copies of the rulings, she was unable to do so as there was no electricity either from the public power supply or the CCT’s generator thereby denying the appellant certified true copy of the rulings and records of January 22, 2019.”
The CCT had on Monday refused to stop the trial of Onnoghen who is facing charges of false declaration of assets.
The tribunal had argued that the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court were courts of concurrent jurisdiction and thus could not grant an order restraining the CCT.
The Court of Appeal on Thursday, however, ordered the CCT to stay proceedings in the case against the CJN.
A panel of the Abuja division of the Appeal Court led by Abdul Aboki directed the tribunal to stay proceedings pending the hearing and determination of the CJN’s application.
The inability of the CCT registrar to make copies available to the defence may, however, stall the appeal. (Punch)