Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has appealed Monday’s decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to delay ruling in his applications challenging its jurisdiction and its impartiality in the criminal case against him
CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, in a ruling on March 11, ordered a day-to-day trial in the charge of non-declaration of assets against Onnoghen and said ruling in the two applications by the defendants would be delivered at the time of judgment.
Onnoghen, in a three-ground notice of appeal filed on Tuesday, argued the CCT erred in law in its interpretation of Section 369(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) when it ruled that its decision in the applicant’s applications shall be given at the point of judgment.
The suspended CJN argued that it was wrong for the CCT to refuse to deliver ruling after hearing the application challenging “constitutional jurisdiction” of the tribunal to hear and determine the charges filed against him.
He also faulted the tribunal for withholding its decision on the other application which challenged the “independence and impartiality of the chairman of the tribunal as his conduct in the proceedings showed bias and prejudiced against the appellant”.
Onnoghen argued that Section 396(2) of ACJA could only be the basis for adjourning rulings on such interlocutory applications till the conclusion of trial if the applications had to do with the validity of the charges filed against the defendant.
He stated that his applications “raised a threshold issue of jurisdiction which should not wait until the conclusion of trial” adding that it “did not relate to the validity of the charges”.
“The decision (deferment of rulings) is a violation of the right of the appellant to fair hearing,” the notice of appeal also stated.
Onnoghne noted that the same CCT, had in an earlier proceedings in the case of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, delivered ruling in similar application.
He added that the CCT erred in the interpretation of Section 396(3) of the ACJA when objections of the appellant to impartiality and independence of the tribunal, particularly the Chairman, whose conduct in the proceedings gave indication of bias and absence of independence in the determination of the right of the appellant.
Onnoghen argued that the application he filed “is not one of the interlocutory applications covered by Section 396(4) of the ACJA. The decision is a violation of the right of the appellant to fair hearing.”
He urged the Court of Appeal to allow his appeal and “set aside the order of the tribunal made on March 11, 2019”.
Onnoghen also urged the Court of Appeal to proceed to invoke the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act, which he noted, empowers the court to hear and determine the applications in respect of which the CCT declined to rule.