YCE, Ohanaeze, SMBL knock FG as court stops CJN’s trial

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday stopped the Federal Government’s arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of non-declaration of assets.

But as the case was going on in Abuja, more groups including the Yoruba Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Southern and Middle Belt Forum and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, came hard on the Federal Government for planning to plunge the country into crisis with the CJN’s trial.

The groups stated this on Monday while commenting on the arraignment of Justice Onnoghen on charges of non-declaration of assets.

They said the way the matter was being handled could plunge the nation into anarchy, saying due process must be followed so that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would not be seen as being desperate to ease out the CJN.

However, ruling on two separate ex parte applications brought before her by different groups, Justice N.E.  Maha, made an order restraining the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the CCT and its chairman, Danladi Umar; the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris; and others from taking steps in respect of the case till January 17.

Also restrained from taking steps concerning the court order were the National Judicial Council and the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.

The judge ordered that the defendants be served with the processes filed by the defendants in the two suits.

She ordered the defendants to appear in court on January 17 for the hearing of the separate applications for interlocutory injunction to stop the prosecution from proceeding with the planned trial of the CJN.

She ruled in respect of the application filed by the incorporated trustees of the International Association of Student Economists and Management, on Monday, “It is hereby ordered as follows:

“That the defendants shall be served with all the processes filed in this suit and shall appear on January 17, 2019 for the hearing of the motion on notice.

“That in the meantime, parties shall maintain the status quo that exists as of today, January 14, 2019 and shall not take any steps that will interfere with the res or subject matter of the suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

“That the matter is adjourned till January 17, 2019 for hearing.”

The Federal Government, had through the Code of Conduct Bureau, on Friday, January 11, filed six counts of non-declaration of assets against the CJN.

Justice Onnoghen was due for arraignment before the CCT on Monday but he was absent.

His absence, which his defence team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), anchored on faulty service on court summons on him and their motion challenging the CCT’s jurisdiction, forced the tribunal to adjourn till January 22.

While the CCT proceedings were ongoing on Monday, the plaintiffs who obtained an order against the proceedings were filing their papers before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Shortly after the filing, the matters were assigned to Justice Maha who heard the plaintiffs at about the time the CCT was concluding its Monday’s proceedings.

One of the two suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was filed before the judge by incorporated trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.

Those joined as defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, the Chairman of CCT, Danladi Umar; the National Judicial Council, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.

The other suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was filed by the incorporated trustees of the International Association of Student Economists and Management.

The suit has as the defendants, the AGF Malami; the CCT, the CCB, the Chairman of CCT, Umar; and the Inspector-General of Police, Idris.

While the ex parte application in the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2019 was moved by Mr. R.A. Lawal-Rabana (SAN), before Justice Maha on Monday, the one filed in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/28/2019 was moved by Mr Jeph Njikonye.

The two plaintiffs have pending before the court their motions on notice seeking an interim injunction restraining the defendants in both suits from proceeding with the trial of the CJN pending the determination of their substantive suit.

By the Monday’s order of Justice Maha, the defendants are to appear before the court on Thursday to show cause why the order of interim injunction should not be granted.

The plaintiffs in both suits argued in their applications that the CJN, as a serving judicial officer, could not be prosecuted without first being disciplined by the NJC.

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