Law

Appeal Court sends Onnoghen back to CCT for trial

The Court of Appeal has refused to stay the trial of the suspended chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, in the false asset declaration charges brought against him by the federal government at the code of conduct tribunal.

The Appellate Court in a unanimous decision in a ruling delivered by justice Abdul Aboki held that the prayers of Onnoghen, that his trial be put on hold, runs contrary to sec 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. Justice Aboki who read the lead ruling sited a case of Dr Bukola Saraki in which Justice Onnoghen himself at the supreme court declined to stay trial of Saraki on the same ground that section 306 of the new law, did not permit the stay of criminal trial.

The Appeal court said that there were no special circumstances under which the prayer of Onnoghen could be granted in the appeal argued on his behalf by Chief Wole Olanikpekun.

In the ruling, the appeal court agreed that the prayer of the appellant for stay of further proceedings ought to be refused, and consequently dismissed the appeal, seeking to stop the Code of Conduct Tribunal from taking further steps in the six-count false asset declaration charges filed against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal headed by Yakubu Umar had on January 14th ruled to hear all motions that arose in the charges against Onnoghen together and give decision on the motions. But Onnoghen, having been dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal to hear all motions together had approached the court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the tribunal.

His appeal was predicated on the ground that the issue of jurisdiction raised against his trial ought to be resolved one way or the other first before any other motion could be entertained.

The Interim order granted by the court of Appeal on January 24th has therefore been vacated in compliance with section 306 of ACDA.

The Federal Government on the 14th sought to arraign Onnoghen at the CCT on false declaration of assets but it could not hold due to the absence of the defendant in the tribunal, who was said not to have been summoned.

On January 22nd, he was not in court for the second time, but his lead counsel told the tribunal that although his client had been served as required by law, he was not there because Onnoghen challenged the competence of the charge against him as well as jurisdiction of the tribunal.

Meanwhile the court has fixed 4th February for the substantive appeal related to the competence of the charge as well as the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

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