The Court of Appeal, Abuja on Wednesday refused to stay the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen on six count charge filed against him for false asset declaration by the Federal Government at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
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 the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Justice Aboki, who delivered the lead ruling cited the case of Bukola Saraki, in which Justice Onnoghen himself at the Supreme Court declined to stay Saraki’s trial on the same grounds that Section 306 of the new law did not permit a stay of criminal trials.
Court of Appeal noted that there were no special circumstances in which Onnoghen’s prayer would be granted in the application that was moved and argued by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN.
The Court of Appeal in the ruling, agreed with the federal government that the suspended CJN request for stay of proceedings ought to be refused in the light of the provisions of Section 306 of AJCA.
The court accordingly dismissed the application seeking to stop the CCT from taking further steps in the six- count criminal charges filed against Onnoghen. It ruled that criminal law apply to the conduct of the tribunal.
“This motion failed. Earlier injunction granted by this court staying proceedings pending this ruling is spent and no longer in existence” , a member of the panel Justice Stephen Adah, added.
Hon Danladi Umar, the Chairman of the CCT had on January 14, ruled to hear all motions that arose from the charges against Onnoghen, including the defendant’s application on jurisdiction to the next adjourned date while giving his ruling.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Justice Onnoghen had appealed the decision of the tribunal to take all motions together and urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the tribunal.His grouse was that the CCT ought to take his motion challenging the CCT jurisdiction first before entertaining any other motion.
The three man panel having dismissed the request for stay subsequently vacated its temporary order issued on January 24 halting the proceedings at the CCT pending its ruling on Onnoghen’s motion.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal adjourned till February 4, for the hearing of the substantive appeal as well as the motion challenging the CCT jurisdiction.
The CCT had scheduled January 14 for the arraignment of Justice Onnoghen over alleged failure to disclose his assets as at when due.
He is expected to respond to a six count charge of false asset declaration charges against the CJN upon his arraignment.
Onnoghen is accused of failing to declare some funds in his domiciliary accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank, Wuse 2 branch, Abuja as at when due.