The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday faulted the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for ignoring orders given by four High Court judges to stop the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen before the tribunal.
A three-man panel of the court, led by Justice Stephen Adah, held that, rather than closing its eyes to the valid and subsisting orders meant to restrain it, the only option opened to the CCT, when the orders were brought to his attention, was to have appealed.
The panel, which delivered judgments in four interlocutory appeals filed by the ex-CJN, equally faulted the ex-parte order issued by the CCT, and on which President Buhari acted in suspending Onnoghen.
The court noted that, since Onnoghen was not yet arraigned as at January 23, 2019 when the ex-parte order was issued, it was wrong for the prosecution to have stealthily gone behind him and his lawyers to obtain an order for his removal from office.
Despite its observation, however, the court declined to set aside the order, noting that the ex-parte order was no longer of any use since the substantive trial has been concluded.
It advised parties in the case to pursue the appeal in relation to the judgment in the substantive trial.
The court also rejected the objections raised by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and held that the appeals were validly filed.
It held that, as against the AGF’s contention, anyone dissatisfied with any decision of the CCT, whether interlocutory or substantive, is not required to first, obtain the tribunal’s leave before filing an appeal.
The three issues were mainly those the court resolved in favour of Onnoghen among the many issues he raised in the four appeals.
The court noted that events have overtaken most of the reliefs sought in the appeals, and proceeded to dismissed them.
Justice Adah read the lead judgment in the first appeal, marked CA/A/76C/2019, which challenged the competence of the ex-parte order granted the prosecution on January 23, 2019 and prayed that it be set aside.
Justice Adah said it was wrong for the prosecution, to have gone back to the tribunal on January 23 to secretly obtain the order, having agreed with the other parties on the previous hearing date, for an adjournment to January 25.
He noted that; “The mode of securing the ex-parte order has raised some question.” He further noted that the respondent (prosecution) went behind the appellants to obtain the ex-parte order after parties had joined issues in respect of a motion on notice earlier filed by the prosecution for the same purpose.
“Justice must not be shrouded in secrecy. The prosecution is expected to be transparent in carrying out its prosecutorial duties,” Adah said.
In declining the appellant’s prayer that the ex-parte order be set aside, Adah noted that “the ex-parte order is spent having overtaken by events. Since the appeal cannot remain in court, it is hereby struck out.”
He advised any party in the case, who is dissatisfied with the final judgment of the CCT, to pursue his appeal in respect of the substantive case, since the trial has been concluded.
Other members of the panel, Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Peter Ige agreed with the lead judgment.
Justice Adah, who equally read the lead judgment in the second appeal marked: CA/A/114C/2019, dismissed it for not being improperly filed and therefore, incompetent.
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