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FG Applies For Onnoghen To Step Aside

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The Federal Government has applied for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to step aside.

Counsel to the government, Mr Aliu Umar, made the submission on Tuesday at the resumed sitting of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had dragged the CJN before the tribunal over allegations of failing to declare his assets.

Aliyu informed the tribunal that his application asking Justice Onnoghen to step aside was not aimed at removing him as the CJN and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He explained that the application was filed to excuse the judge from the duties of a CJN to enable him defend himself before the tribunal.

Meanwhile, the Registrar confirmed that the CJN was served personally at about 3.11pm on January 14, as directed by the Tribunal.

Just after the sitting commenced, the lead counsel to Onnoghen, Wole Olanipekun, had informed the three-man panel of the orders of the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court and National Industrial Court restraining the Tribunal from proceeding with the trial of the CJN.

Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that it was his responsibility, as an officer of the court, to inform the Tribunal of the orders of the various courts.

He stated that the defendant has appealed to the Court of Appeal, challenging the order of the Tribunal to hear the motion challenging its jurisdiction along with the trial.

The senior lawyer added that the appeal at the Appellate Court has been adjourned till Thursday, January 24.

He noted that it would amount to judicial rascality for a court or tribunal to disobey subsisting court orders that were yet to be vacated.

Olanipekun, therefore, urged the tribunal to give effect to the restraining orders in addition to the appeal before the Appeal Court and adjourn the trial indefinitely, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal.

But the prosecutor insisted that the business of the day was the arraignment of Justice Onnoghen and the hearing of the motion challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

Mr Umar argued that the Tribunal was unique and not subject to the supervision of other courts but the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

He also submitted that the tribunal was not subject to the rulings of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court, stressing that there was no order from the Appeal Court restraining the Tribunal from sitting today.

The prosecutor, thereafter, asked the Tribunal to make an interim order directing the CJN to step aside even if the Tribunal was inclined towards adjourning the trial indefinitely.

Mr Olanipekun then replied that once the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal has been challenged, the tribunal cannot make any order until the issue of jurisdiction was sorted out.

He argued that Justice Onnoghen was not bound to be at the Tribunal until the Tribunal ruled whether it has jurisdiction.

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