Onnoghen: CCT Chair Snubs Query, Says He Reports Only To Presidency

ENIOLA AKINKUOTU

The Chairman of the Code of Conduct
Tribunal, Danladi Umar, says he is not a judicial officer and is
therefore not answerable to any institution but the Presidency.

He, therefore, rejected the authority of the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

Umar
said this while responding to a petition against him by an
organisation, the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and
Peace Initiative.

In a petition signed by Grace Wogor, the group
asked the commission to sanction Umar for abusing court processes and
granting an ex parte order removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria,
Justice Walter Onnoghen, when the CJN had not yet been convicted.

The FJSC subsequently issued a query to the CCT boss, asking him to respond to the allegations against him.

In
his response, dated February 6, 2019, and marked CCT/HQ/FJSC/S/01 and
addressed to the acting Chairman of the FJSC, Umar said he was not
answerable to any institution but the Presidency.

He said, “With
regard to the prayer of the petitioner for an appropriate sanction
against the chairman, it is important to note that the chairman and
members of the tribunal, not being judicial officers, are not
constitutionally subject to any disciplinary proceedings by either the
National Judicial Council or the Federal Judicial Service Commission but
the Presidency.”

Umar explained that at the time of inauguration, members of the CCT only take official oaths and not judicial oaths.

He
said, “The petitioner alleged that judicial oaths were breached and
that the National Judicial Council should consider appropriate
sanctions. It is to be noted that the chairman and members of the Code
of Conduct Tribunal are not judicial officers.

“This is
predicated on the fact that the chairman and members of the tribunal,
during swearing-in, only subscribe to official oaths and not judicial
oaths. Therefore, not being a judicial officer, I did not subscribe to
judicial oaths as alleged.”

On why he granted the ex parte order,
Umar said he did so because it was within his power but added that he
could not speak further since the matter was before the Court of Appeal
and commenting on it would be subjudice.

The CCT boss also
attached a letter dated May 18, 2015, which was signed by the then CJN
and Chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

In the letter
with reference number NJC/CIR/HOC/1/74, the then CJN asked members of
the CCT to stop referring to themselves as justices as they were not
judges.

The decision was made pursuant to Paragraph 15 (1 and 2)
of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria.

The letter read in part, “From the foregoing
provisions, no member, including the chairman of the CCT on
appointment, is a judicial officer as defined in Section 318 (1) of the
1999 Constitution as amended unless he or she has held office as a judge
of the superior court of record in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile,
Onnoghen’s defence team has raised the alarm over what they described as
lies contained in the records of proceedings of the CCT dated January
23, 2019.

It was the day the CCT chairman granted an ex parte order for the removal of the CJN.

The
record of proceedings, which was made available to our correspondent,
read, ‘complainant/applicant respondent (Onnoghen) in court’.

However,
the defence maintained that the CJN was not in court when the ex parte
order was granted by the CCT chairman; rather, only the prosecution was
present.

“We have filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal.

Obviously, there is some hanky panky going on; otherwise, they would not have done that.

Everyone
knows that neither the CJN nor his lawyers were in court when that ex
parte order was granted,” one of Onnoghen’s lawyers said on Saturday.

Source:- Punchng