Guest Columnist

Re: Onnoghen: The wasp on the nation’s scrotum, By Louis Odion, FNGE

Louis, I am one of the regular and avid readers of your column, THE BOTTOM LINE, in The Nation newspaper. Keep up your patriotic and good articles please.

In your said column of January 29, you wrote emphatically, “But until the provisions of the current law is discharged, the NJC is the only body empowered to recommend such summary action against an errant CJN”.

You also wrote about ‘the relatively “inconsequential” Code of Conduct Tribunal’, CCT.

With the greatest respect sir, I humbly and respectfully plead to disagree with you on both issues.  The 5th Schedule of our extant Constitution has vested the CCT and only the CCT with awesome powers, as affirmed in 2013 by Onnoghen himself in Ahmed vs. Ahmed & Ors.

Onnoghen in the said 2013 judgment held that the CCT has exclusive jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the Code of conduct for public officers.

Interpreting Paragraph 12 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as regards CCT’s jurisdiction in Ahmed v. Ahmed & Ors (2013), Justice Onnoghen JSC (as he then was) held:

“… the said paragraph 12 provides as follows; ‘Any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of provisions of or has not complied with the provisions of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau.’

“The foregoing provisions are clearly unambiguous and so construed literally mean that any breaches of any provisions of the said 5th schedule or matters of noncompliance with any provisions 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 provisions under the Code.

“If I may emphasize, any violations shall be made to Code of Conduct Bureau. The provisions have made it mandatory to take any matters so covered by the 5th Schedule (supra) to the Code of Conduct Bureau and not to any ordinary regular Courts as has been done in this instance.

“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 provision has expressly ousted the powers of ordinary regular courts in respect of such violations.

“The Tribunal to the exclusion of other courts is also empowered to impose any punishments as specified under sub-paragraphs (2) (a), (b), & (c) of paragraph 18 as provided in sub-paragraphs 3 and 4 of paragraph 18 while appeals shall lie as of right from such decisions to the Court of Appeal.

“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 to this Court.

“As can be seen, the lower Court exercises appellate jurisdiction over the Code of Conduct Tribunal and no more.”

All public officers including The President and all judicial officers fall under the CCT as listed in Part II of the 5th Schedule.

Only the CCT has jurisdiction to try cases of violation of the Code of Conduct for all the public officers listed in Part II of the 5th Schedule.

If the CCT finds any public officer guilty of violating the code of conduct for public officers, it may impose any of the three sanctions listed in paragraph 18 (2) of Part I of the 5th Schedule.

“The punishment which the Code of Conduct Tribunal may impose shall include any of the following – “(a) vacation of office or seat in any legislative house, as the case may be.”

With the greatest respect sir, it is humbly submitted that the CCT is an awesome Tribunal with awesome powers including the removal from office of ANY public officer who violates the Code of Conduct for public officers.

The CCT, sir, is not “relatively inconsequential”. It has awesome powers to remove any public officer from office if it finds such officer guilty of violating the Code of conduct for public officers.

It follows therefore that the CCT has inherent powers to order the suspension from office of any Public officer before it, as it did in Onnoghen’s case since Onnoghen had admitted in writing that he had violated the code of conduct for public officers with respect to his Assets Declaration.

The fear of the CCT by all public officers in Nigeria is indeed the beginning of wisdom, sir.

The awesome powers of the CCT are understandable. All public officers take Oaths of office in which they swear among other things that they will abide by the Code of conduct for public officers.

If any public officer violates the code of conduct for public officers, he has lost all basis to remain in public office sir.

Thanks.

  • Dr J. O . A. Abalaka,

08127340836;

Jerry4aba@gmail.com

Onnoghen

Well done Odion, you have given me the first complete view of the story. The crime is a bad sickness but the drug chosen to treat it is not most appropriate.

  • Evang. CHRIS E.,

Abi Local Government Area, Cross River State: 08126327915

I’m surprised and disappointed that could suggest that a self-confessed criminal ought to have been called aside quietly, shown the weighty dossier and then advised to resign. What impact would this action have on the anti-corruption war of this administration? In effect, you are suggesting some cover up. Why? Aren’t we all equal before the law? If we don’t treat everybody and all institutions equally, we shall not win the war against poverty.

  • Udoma Uboh, Ota: 08022025169

My brother, thank God for this Buhari man. As a minister in the temple of jusitice for thirty years, my eyes have seen a lot. A conscientious lawyer can’t win a case. The judges are trading in justice. Last week, my client lost her case at the Supreme Court for being unable to deposit the bribe demanded upfront. Justice is endangered. We are in trouble. Thanks.

  • 08033397362

The Facebook argumentators would never see a detailed piece like this on the issue of CJN before coming up with their jaundiced arguments.

Thumbs up!

  • Adeleke Adebayo

The judiciary on its own can’t be corrupt if not influenced by an equally corrupt executive, legislature and the larger society. Take notice that Onnoghen was never wanted by the powers that be. Didn’t you observe the snail speed that occasioned his appointment as opposed to the rush in treating the petition against him, his trial and suspension?

In the thoughtless support of Buhari, some people take hook, line and sinker what he says and does without due regard to the legal provision as in the extant case. Buhari is not the law. Some people either by design or accident are leading him to his political grave.

That order was a fraud. It also came from one who still has the real corruption charge hanging on his neck. In climes that the law acts as an ass, Buhari, after the yet to be resolved saga of his own certificate and clear violation of court orders, would have resigned or be forced out. It is neither here nor there.

We are all casualties in a collapsed system, not just the issue of Onnoghen.

  • EDET ESSIEN ESQ,

Calabar, Cross River: 08037952470

Louis, great piece on Onnoghen. My take on the issue is that it smells like a plot gone awry. First quesrion is: why did it take almost an eternity to confirm Onnoghen’s appointment? The grapevine has it that the Senate actually saw some things which, for reasons best known to them, they overlooked. Politics?

Two, it is glaring a huge chunk of all that cash came from politically exposed sources. Not the safest, you’ll agree? And the bottom-line: the high wire politics of 2019. Looks like there’s a plot to do a job on PMB, but they got hit instead. That hurts real bad, isn’t it?

Lastly, why on earth should anyone arrange a “dignified” exit for a dirty corrupt CJ?

Enjoy the rest of your day.

  • Olu: 08033013597
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