The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday dismissed an appeal by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, which challenged an ex-parte order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) issued on January 23, 2019, for Onnoghen’s suspension from office pending his trial.
Backstory: President Muhammadu Buhari had, on the strength of the ex parte order, suspended Onnoghen from office on January 25, 2019. The former chief judge mounted a legal challenge against this action which the appeal court has just dismissed.
The verdict: The judgment dismissing the appeal was unanimous and on the grounds that the substantive matter had been concluded by the CCT.
However, the bench, led by Justice Stephen Adah, also ruled that the CCT’s ex-parte order breached the Onnoghen’s right to a fair hearing by ordering his suspension pending the determination of his trial before the tribunal. Justice Adah noted, the court proceedings ought not to have been conducted “in a shady or clandestine maneuver.”
Why it does not matter: “The CoA condemned the secret ex parte order issued by the CCT suspending Onnoghen but said the appeal for determination was only on the exparte motion regarding his suspension & because the substantive charge had been dispensed this was an academic exercise,” Ilemona Onoja, a lawyer and political aide to Senate President, Bukola Saraki tweeted.
Curiously, Onnoghen previously alleged that the appeal court was ordered not to rule on his case. And it took the court three months to rule from the time it reserved judgement on the case and when such ruling had been overtaken by events. The CCT already convicted Onnoghen on six counts of false declaration of assets and banned him from holding any public office for the next 10 years on April 18th.