Nigeria Judiciary And Matters Arising
We have to presage this interaction with a simple act of lifting the veil over the undeserved legal summersault with which some of our colleagues have embarked upon clearly not because they genuinely wanted to protect the rule of Law but much more for their self-preservation. The current President of the Nigerian Bar and some other lawyers are facing criminal prosecution by the EFCC.
At another level, some of these senior Lawyers are now using the Bar and their membership of the National Judicial Council in a desperate efforts to continue their partisan political warfare and ambitions that have crashed before their eyes. Their partisan’s directive which was already manipulated as a decision of the NBA for a two day’s Lawyers boycott of Courts has divided the body of lawyers nationwide.
The fact that Justice Onnoghen supporting lawyers were involved in Forum Shopping of Various Courts to secure favourable exparte orders to prevent the trial of Justice Onnoghen clearly expose them as not acting in the best tradition of credible bar but for their private interest. They knew that the Federal and Abuja High Courts are of equal jurisdiction with that of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. Yet they misadvised themselves in making Justice Onnoghen to be absent at his trial that was legally set.
Furthermore, the Senior Lawyers who are presumed to know the Court rules used their seniority status to force an instant ruling from the Court on the same date they approached the appellate Court. They were aware of their undue haste that undermined the ordinary processes stipulated in the Rules of the Court of Appeal. But that is left for another day.
I need to state unequivocally that the United States of America as it is today is a negative replica of genuine democracy. Donald Trump has exhibited unbelievable acts of totalitarianism. He is in good company with despots all over –Philippines, Russia, North Korea etc. The Republican Control Congress and the Senate have collaborated for about 10 years to disenfranchise diversed minority groups in the USA particularly in Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina etc. USA and UK’s so called concern about our country’s fight against corruption is therefore hypocritical and is to be ignored as act of meddlesomeness.
No doubt, there is no perfection in humanity. Our intervention on this Justice Onnoghen’s matter does not suggest that we are formulating an interrogation that cast some Public Officers as angels while others are demons. Who knows who among the handlers of this matter is himself/herself not neck deep in various act of corruption. As the saying goes, every day is for the thief but one day is for the owner. Their own day of reckoning could come sooner than they expect it.
As a country; the state cannot arrest and prosecute all accused persons at the same time. Those who argue that there remains corrupt elements around the President should not be afraid to expose such elements and confront them with facts and figures. That is how to buyin to the fight against corruption but not casting aspersion that cannot be proved against state functionaries just to confuse the Public as to who is upright or not
There have been various pontifications on DUE PROCESS. The argument that Justice Onnoghen should have been reported to the NJC (which Onnoghen presides over) to comply with the Court of Appeal ruling (yet to be adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court) in Justice Ngajiwa’s case that implies that no charges can be brought against a Judicial Officer until his matter has been tried by the NJC remains a misguided premise. Is the NJC now investing itself with police power of investigation?
Justice Onnoghen is both a Public Officer and Judicial Officer whose appointment is covered and regulated by the Code of Conduct provisions contained in the 5th Schedule, Part one of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Onnoghen is not covered by the immunity provision under Section 308 (1-3)
Insisting on the Appeal Court’ ruling in Justice Ngajiwa’s case would amount to accepting that it is right and acceptable that the Judiciary can resort to illegality by clothing Judicial Officers with immunity to which other public officers are not covered. In other words, the Engineers, Medical Doctors, Architects, Teachers, Farmers, Pharmacists etc. Councils should first decide the fate of their members who commit crimes and other misdemeanors before the Constitutional provisions can apply to them. That will certainly lead to absurdity which the Law wants to avoid at all times. In order word, some set of the laws are for other Nigerians while Judges are above the law.
The arguments against time has no Legal basis but Politisation of Constitutional violation. Time does not run against the state in criminal prosecution-MONO-SINE LEGE etc.
The matter has become unnecessarily politicized mostly by political opponents of the PMB. They are entitled to their views but they cannot be allowed to sell their partisan political preoccupation to weep up sentiments and to make insinuations as to PMB’s motive in Justice Onnoghen’s matter particularly when the accused has admitted the crime/ violation of the constitutional provisions.
The same 1999 Constitution that provides for Section 292 as to the procedure for the removal of superior Court Judges and Justices in (1) (a) provides that “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances- In the case of – Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federation High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by the two-third majority of the Senate, Chief Judge of the State, Grand Kadi of Sharia Court of Appeal or President of a Customary Court of Appeal of a state by the Governor acting on an address supported by the two-third majority of the House of Assembly of the state.
Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising
from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct; 10. (a) The same 1999 Constitution provides in Section 153 for the establishment of Federal bodies for which the CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU is the first to be listed.
In bringing the work of CCB into effects, the 1999 Constitution provides in the third Schedule for the establishment of the Code of Conduct Bureau. In the FIFTH SCHEDULE, 1, dealing with. Code of Conduct for Public Officers in Section 11-it provides for Declaration of Assets as mandatory “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every Public Officer shall within three months after the coming into force of this Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter- at the end of every four years; and At the end of his term of office “Submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of his properties, asset, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children the age of eighteen years”.
In Section 12,of the FIFTH Schedule it provides “Any allegation that a Public Office has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provisions of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau.” Section 15 of the Fifth Schedule provides for the establishment of a tribunal to be known as Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) In Section 18 (1) (2) (3) provides for the powers of the CCT.
Where the Code of Conduct Tribunal finds a public Officer guilty of contravention of any of the provisions of this code it shall impose upon that Officer any of the punishments specified under sub-paragraph of this paragraph and such other punishments as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
The punishment which the Code of Conduct Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following: Vacation of office or seat in any legislative house as the case may be; Disqualification from membership of a legislative house and from the holding of any public office from a period not exceeding ten years; and Seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property
acquired in abuse or corruption of office The sanctions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) hereof shall be without prejudice to the penalties that may be imposed by any law where the conduct is also a criminal offence.
In the light of the above Constitutional provisions, objective commentators would readily reject and dismiss the dubious efforts to give legal matter undeserved political partisanship and ethnic coloration that are being unwisely displayed over the matter since it became a matter of public discuss.
The partisan politicians and their Lawyers have abandoned substance to chasing shadow to make us a laughing stock globally. They have rather held on to a tenuous technicality contained in Ngajiwa’s matter that is still in contention because it will certainly lead to absurdity of monumental dimension. All other professional bodies can equally insists
that the Nigerian Law will only apply to their members who had contravened a particular law after their organizations have tried their members.
(a) Second, the collaborating Senior Lawyers should have refreshed themselves with the authoritative Judgement of Chief Justice Onnoghen’s in Section 279/2012 delivered on July 12, 2013 in Ismael Ahmed and Alhaji Nasiru Ahmed, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Kano State Chairman and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) Interpreting paragraph 12 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as regards CCT’s jurisdiction, Justice Onnoghen held:”‘ the said paragraph 12 provides as follows: any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provisions of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
(b) “The foregoing provisions are clearly unambiguous and so construed literally mean that any breach of any provisions of the said Fifth schedule or matters of noncompliance with any provision of the Code shall, (meaning that it is mandatory i.e. must) be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau that has established its Tribunal with the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with any violations of any provision under the Code.”
© “If I may emphasise, any violation shall be made to Code of Conduct Bureau. The provisions have made it mandatory to take any matters so covered by the Fifth Schedule (supra) to the Code of Conduct Bureau and not to any ordinary regular Courts as has been done in this instance.”
(d) “If I may repeat, the Code of Conduct Tribunal has been established with the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with all violations contravening any of the provisions of the Code as per paragraph 15(1). This provisions has expressly ousted the powers of ordinary regular Courts in respect of such violations.”
(e)“The Tribunal to the exclusion of other courts is also empowered to impose any punishments as specified under sub-paragraph (2) (a), (b) & (c) of the paragraph 18 as provided in sub-paragraph 3 and 4 of paragraph 18 while appeals shall lie as of right from such decisions to the Court of Appeal.”
(f)”Simply put, to tackle any violation of the Code starts before the Code of Conduct Bureau Tribunal to the Court below on appeal and on a further appeal there from to this Court.”
(g) “As can be seen, the lower Courts exercise appellate jurisdiction over the Code of Conduct Tribunal and no more.”
(h) In his contributory Judgement in Ahmed V. Ahmed & Ors. (2013) Lpelr-21143(SC), Justice Onnoghen said regarding breach of public conduct: “It is the contention of the cross appellants that the initiation of the appeal process etc. by M.K. Dabo Esq is in violation of the paragraph of the Fifth Schedule thereby rendering the actions so taken and the processes null and void.
(i) “The real important question to ask at this stage is, what is the consequence of the violation of the aforesaid paragraph of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution?
(j) “The answer to the above question is to be found in paragraph 12 of the said part 1 of the Fifth Schedule which enact as follows:
(k) ‘Any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of provisions of this code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau.”
(l) “It is my considered view that the above provisions very clear and unambiguous. It provides a remedy in the event of any alleged breach of the provisions. The remedy lies with the Code of Conduct Bureau which has been clothed with the requisite jurisdiction to handle such matters.”
18. Third, the fact that Justice Onnoghen failed to appear before the CCT when infact the Bailiffs gave evidence that Justice Onnoghen asked that the summons should be collected on his behalf by one of his aides is unfortunate. And to show that he was aware of the summons, his Lawyers converged on the Court to raise objections- first that he was not personally served and second that the Code of Conduct is incompetent to try The Chief Justice of Nigeria demonstrate Justice Onnoghen’s utter contempt for the Judiciary he presided over. Instead, he obeyed the advice of the PDP Governors of the South South not to attend to the CCT hearing. In other words, he became a partisan agent serving as the Head of Nigerian Judiciary. How can the other political parties trust him as an impartial arbiter?
19. The consequences of his failure to appear before the CCT has far reaching consequences. Perhaps, the CJN is above the Law or he is a Law to himself.
20. Again, let us reiterate that the Violation/Non-Declaration of Asset Declaration provisions as contained in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution was a misconduct not done in the performance of Justice Onnoghen official duty. It is therefore not a matter constitutionally expected to be referred to the National Judicial Council, NJC, as is being wrongly suggested by political opponents of the government and perhaps innocently by those who are ignorant of the Law.
21. Furthermore, that Justice Onnoghen having admitted in his own statement to have violated the Law and yet wants to remain as the Head of the Judiciary is unfortunate. It further explains the degeneration to which Nigerian Judiciary has sank in recent years. How can Justice Onnoghen preside over any matter violating the provisions of the Constitution when he has been caught red handed as a violator but hoping to hang on to the unfounded technicality to remain in office. There are Plethora of cases in recent time where the Courts have insisted on doing substantive Justice rather than technicalities.
22. It is in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerian Judiciary that Justice Onnoghen should resign immediately so as to save us of the national embarrassment that his conduct has occasioned.
CONVENER MOVEMENT FOR VALUE RESTORATION