Decision day for Onnoghen, Tanko, Umar as NJC meets Monday - Dove Bulletin - Online News Bulletin

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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Decision day for Onnoghen, Tanko, Umar as NJC meets Monday


Tomorrow is decision day for suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen and the Acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko as the National Judicial Council (NJC) reconvene to decide on their fate.

The disciplinary body of judicial officers had Tuesday last week at its emergency meeting given them a seven-day ultimatum to responded to some petitions brought against them before the council.

Also queried was the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar whose petition was referred to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for consideration.

The meeting of the NJC which was held without Justices Onnoghen and Tanko, was chaired by a retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.

Four petitions filed at its secretariat against the trio were considered at the meeting.

Our correspondent authoritatively reports that all the affected officers had filed their individual responses to their queries.

In his response however, the CCT Chairman, Umar, said he was only answerable to President Muhammadu Buhari and not the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative had in a petition signed by Grace Wogor, 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.

However, in his written response to the petition, Umar stated clearly that he was only answerable to the Presidency and not the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

His written response dated February 6, 2019, and marked CCT/HQ/FJSC/S/01 and addressed to the acting Chairman of the FJSC, Umar 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.”

The CCT chair further clarified that members of the tribunal 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 subjudiced.

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.”

According to the NJC, the four petitions are: Petition against Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education, Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, Petition against Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, and Petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.

The NJC said: “In view of the gravity of the matters involved, council abridged the usual response period from 14 to seven working days for the Hon. Justices to respond.

“Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, and Hon. Mr. Justice I.T. Muhammad, recused themselves from the meeting. Consequently, council elected Hon. Mr. Justice Umaru Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting.

“Council will reconvene on the February 11, 2019.”
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