By Bologi M Maikudi
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has faulted the suspension order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) which forced former Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, out of office.
The appeal court in a unanimous decision agreed that the decision taken “in secret” for the suspension of Onnoghen should not be so because “justice should not be shrouded in secrecy”
“We have reviewed the arguments of counsel in this appeal. The order was a product of an ex-parte motion,” the court ruled.
They added that previous rulings had decided on what an ex-parte motion is.
“The record before us show that the appellant had not been arraigned before the order was made.
The court noted that the ex-parte order was given in ‘secret.’
The Appeal Court also held that CCT should have obeyed the pending orders of other courts stopping the trial, instead of proceeding without first appealing the pending orders.
The Court however struck out four appeals filed by Onnoghen, in relation to his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He noted that while all the parties to the case during the January 22, 2019 proceedings of the trial agreed with the tribunal to have the case adjourned till January 25 for the hearing of pending applications, the prosecution went behind the defendant to obtain the ex parte order on January 23.
Justice Olabisi Ige, who read the lead judgment in another appeal, also held that the CCT ought to have been bound by the various court orders from the National Industrial Court and the Federal High Court stopping the trial.
The judge held that the tribunal ought to have “tarried a while” and file an appeal to the Court of Appeal to have the orders set aside, instead of ignoring the orders.
However, all the justices, including Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, who delivered the lead judgment in another appeal, held that there was nothing wrong in the CCT’s decision to hear the appellant’s notice of preliminary objection along with the prosecution’s interlocutory motion on notice.
They also ruled that the CCT rightly applied the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act by refusing the defendant’s application for stay of proceedings.
Justice Adah, in another judgment, dismissed Onnoghen’s appeal challenging the warrant of arrest issued against him by the CCT.
The appeal was struck out on the basis that the appellant failed to present a copy of the arrest before the court.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has yet to fix a date for the hearing of Onnoghen’s appeal challenging his conviction by the CCT.