CCT Chair Truly Answerable Only To Presidency, Says NBA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said on Tuesday that it agreed with the argument by the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal ( CCT ), Danladi Uma that he and his tribunal were not answerable to the Judiciary, but the Presidency.

NBA, in a statement issued on
Tuesday by its President, Paul Usoro (SAN), said Umar was correct in
that argument, but contended that the fact that the CCT was under the
control of the Executive informs the urgent need to discontinue charge
of breach of code of conduct pending against the suspended Chief Justice
of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen before the CCT.

It said: “the
Chairman of the CCT, Hon. Danladi Umar, in his response to a petition
that was written against him and which was forwarded to him by the
Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) states emphatically that he
and his tribunal are answerable and report only to the Presidency, by
law and practice. He is absolutely correct.

“An insistence, in
the circumstance, on the CJN, the head of an independent arm of the FGN,
standing trial before a tribunal that is under the Presidency and is
answerable only to the Presidency, mocks the concept of and completely
erodes the independence of the judiciary and the constitutional
separation that should exist between the three arms of the FGN.

“It
is precisely for this reason that our Constitution created the NJC and
we are pleased that the FGN has warmed up to the utilization of that due
process, as illustrated by the submission of the EFCC petition to the
council.”

NBA’s new intervention in the case is coming a day before the resumption of proceedings in the case before the CCT.

The
Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar had, at the last proceedings on
February 4 this year, insisted that Onnoghen must appear before the
tribunal in person before any further businesses could be conducted in
the charge pending against him (Onnoghen).

Umar gave the directive shortly before agreeing to the request by parties for adjournment to February 13.

He
said: “Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), a
defendant, who is served with a charge and represented by lawyers, must
take his plea before raising any objection.

“The defendant has
continued to stay away from this tribunal. I am going to grant this
adjournment at the instance of the prosecution and defence, but must
state that the defendant must attend court at the next adjourned date so
that all the issues would be resolved in his presence.”

Read Also: Onnoghen to CCT chair: you’re a biased, tainted arbiter
Also
on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal in Abuja failed to hear the three
appeals filed suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter
Onnoghen.

The appellate court had in late January adjourned on February 12, 2019 for the hearing of the appeals

But,
when lawyers to parties got to court on Tuesday, the court could not
form quorum (of three Justices) for the purpose of hearing the appeals.

Parties were told to await information, on a later date, on when the hearing is to be rescheduled.

The
appeals are against the decisions of the Code of Conduct to assume
jurisdiction over the charge pending against Onnoghen and the ex-parte
injunction granted by the CCT, and on which President Muhammadu Buhari
acted to suspend Onnoghen.

The statement by the NBA reads: “Ahead
of the adjourned proceedings in the above-named matter before the Code
of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”), scheduled for tomorrow, February 13, 2019,
the Nigerian Bar Association again urges the Executive arm of the
Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) to discontinue this Charge against
the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N
Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”) for the following reasons, amongst others:

“First,
as widely reported, one of the two petitions against the CJN that is
currently before the National Judicial Council (“NJC” or “Council”) is
an exact replica of the petition that motivated the CCT Charge.

“The
second petition was reportedly presented by the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC), an FGN agency. We commend the FGN for adhering
to due process by submitting the EFCC petition to the NJC for
consideration.

“In like manner and in adherence to the law and
due process, we urge the FGN to discontinue the CCT Charge and allow the
NJC consider the initial petition which, as widely reported, has
already been responded to by the CJN.

“Second, the Chairman of
the CCT, Hon. Danladi Umar, in his response to a petition that was
written against him and which was forwarded to him by the Federal
Judicial Service Commission, states emphatically that he and his
tribunal are answerable and report only to the Presidency, by law and
practice. He is absolutely correct.

“An insistence, in the
circumstance, on the CJN, the head of an independent arm of the FGN,
standing trial before a tribunal that is under the Presidency and is
answerable only to the Presidency, mocks the concept of and completely
erodes the independence of the judiciary and the constitutional
separation that should exist between the three arms of the FGN.

“It
is precisely for this reason that our Constitution created the NJC and
we are pleased that the FGN has warmed up to the utilization of that due
process, as illustrated by the submission of the EFCC petition to the
Council.

“Third, and complementary to the two points afore-stated
is the fact that the spectacle of having our CJN, while still holding
that title, in the dock before the CCT or any other court, truly
diminishes all of us, not least the Executive arm of the FGN.

“The
NJC process allows an initial determination to be made on the petitions
against the CJN and if His Lordship is found liable or wanting
howsoever, appropriate sanctions would be imposed by the NJC including
recommendation for his dismissal or retirement.

“In that event,
he would no longer hold the office or title of CJN and could be
prosecuted for any criminal infraction before the CCT or any other
Court.

“An insistence on the CCT prosecution paints a picture of
persecution of the CJN by the Executive and such a spectacle in no way
ennobles the FGN Executive arm and/or its officials. Such a scenario
should be avoided by all means.

“Given these non-exhaustive
considerations and facts, we press on the Executive arm of the FGN to
please discontinue the Charge against the CJN when the matter comes up
before the CCT tomorrow, Wednesday, 13 February 2019.

“We
respectfully urge full compliance with due process by FGN in this matter
by allowing the NJC process to take its course in respect of the two
petitions against the CJN – a step that has already, commendably, been
embraced by FGN in respect of the EFCC petition.”

Source:- Thenationonlineng