Senior Lawyers Disagree over CCT’s Order
The bench warrant issued yesterday by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Chairman Danladi Umar for the arrest of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen has become the subject of arguments by senior lawyers.
They are divided over the propriety of the CCT chair ordering the law officer’s arrest at a time his matter was pending before the National Judicial Council (NJC) and at the Court of Appeal.
Eminent professor of law Itse Sagay (SAN) said Justice Onnoghen was not above the law.
“So, the order to arrest him for failing to appear before the Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was in order,” Sagay said.
He told our correspondent that the suspended CJN should have appeared before the CCT to demonstrate his regard for the rule of law.
Said Sagay: “I don’t want to speak much on it, because whatever I say they will pour petrol and set fire on it. But from the beginning when this problem started, I said that no one is above the law.”
“Ask yourself, if you or I were the ones accused, would we not appear before the CCT? How is Onnoghen different from the rest of us legally and constitutionally? No way,” Sagay said.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman disagreed with former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), who said the CCT’s order was subversive of the rule of law since a petition against Justice Onnoghen was pending before the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Sagay said: “I don’t want to criticise Agbakoba, but they should think of the future of this country. They should not create a privileged class that is not subject to law whilst others are subject to it. At the end of the day, it will bring the law into contempt.
“I think Onnoghen should have appeared before the CCT to show that as the former head of the Judiciary, he has great respect for the rule of law.”
Dr. Agbakoba faulted the arrest warrant because it was subversive of rule of law and due process.
He said the CCT should have waited for the NJC to determine a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Chief Justice Onnoghen.
According to Agbakoba, the CCT chairman went “too far” by issuing the order.
He said: “I am shocked that the CCT will issue a bench warrant for the arrest of Hon. Justice Walter Onnogen, knowing full well that its jurisdiction to try the case has been challenged and the application on challenge is on the CCT docket, and no hearing has occurred.”
“The CCT is aware that there is now before the NJC a petition against Justice Walter Onnogen on exactly the same charges at the CCT.”
“The CCT ought to await the outcome of the pending matters in the NJC, Appeal Court and Federal High Court.”
“The conduct of the CCT subverts the rule of law and due process.”
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