Court dismisses suit challenging trial of Onnoghen

The National Industrial Court, Abuja, has dismissed the suit opposing the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Peter Abang, the claimant who is also a lawyer, had instituted the suit, challenging the jurisdiction of the CCT in prosecuting Onnoghen.

At the resumed sitting of the suit on Tuesday slated for hearing of pending applications, counsel to the claimant, Mr Kingsley Ewurum informed the court that he had filed notice of discontinuance of the suit, NAN reports.

He said the application was seeking an order of the court to discontinue the matter, and urged the court to strike out the suit with regard to the circumstance that events had overtaken the matter.

Ewurum further said proceeding with the matter would be a mere academic exercise.

When counsel to the first defendant, Mr. Abdullahi Abubakar, was asked if he had objection to the application, he said he had no objection, but urged the court to dismiss the suit as against the proposed striking out the suit.

Abubakar gave his reason that the defendants had joined issues with the claimant.

He also urged the court to award substantial cost because they had filed in their defence.

The claimant’s counsel, in response, argued that issues had not been joined and he further stated that the rules of the court allowed party at any time or stage of proceedings to discontinue with his case.

The judge, Justice Sanusi Kado, in his ruling, said, “in the case at hand, having regards to the processes filed so far, it is clear that the claimant has joined issues with the first defendant”.

Kado added that in line with Order 61, Rule 7 of the NICN proceeding of 2017, that the parties had joined issues.

He concluded by saying, “in the circumstance, this suit is hereby dismissed. I make no order as to cost”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Onnoghen having stood trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the action nullified the suit instituted to challenge the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

Joined as co-defendants in the suit were Code of Court Bureau (CCB), CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Others are are: the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Inspector-General of Police and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

NAN reports that on April 18, the CCT has convicted Onnoghen, 68, and ordered his immediate removal from office as the CJN.

The Tribunal also stripped him of all offices earlier occupied, such as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council and also the chairmanship of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The tribunal also ordered the forfeiture of the five accounts which defendant failed to declare as part of his assets.

The tribunal also ordered the forfeiture of the money in the five accounts which Onnoghen failed to declare to the Federal Government.

Three punishments were imposed on him as the sentence for his offences as charged.

Although Onnoghen had been on suspension since January 25, 2019 and had reportedly resigned on April 4, the tribunal ordered his removal from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and also as the chairman of both the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

Reading the judgment, Umar, also ordered the forfeiture of the funds in the five bank accounts which the defendant was said to have failed to declare as part of his assets in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

Onnoghen was convicted on the six counts preferred against him.

Specifically, the Federal Government, acting through the Code of Conduct Bureau, had in the charges filed on January 11, accused Onnoghen in the first count of failure to declare his assets to the bureau between June 2005 and December 14, 2016.

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