Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar.
Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman Danladi Umar yesterday accused counsel to suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) of deploying delay tactics in the trial of the embattled chief justice.
Awomolo had applied for an adjournment in view of the investigation being carried out by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the subject matter.
Onnoghen, who was charged before the tribunal by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on a 6-count charge of non-declaration of assets, has not appeared before the tribunal since the trial commenced on January 14.
He said the NJC had in the exercise of its constitutional powers forwarded the petition to Onnoghen to reply within 7 days which will lapse on February 6.
“We are hoping that shortly thereafter, the NJC will meet to consider the reply of the defendant to the allegations. So, our application is for the proceeding to be further adjourned so that the defendant does not suffer double jeopardy by facing the tribunal and the NJC over the same matter at the same time,” Awomolo said.
Although the prosecution counsel did not object to the application for adjournment, the tribunal chairman insisted that the parties must go ahead with the application challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction filed by the defence and motion on notice to formalize the exparte order that was used to suspend the embattled CJN.
He said, “We are not leaving this place today (Monday) until we hear the two applications. NJC is not a court of law. The fact that there is a petition against the defendant at the NJC does not affect the tribunal’s powers.”
Facing Awomolo, the tribunal chairman added, “You have been at the bar for a long time, why are you using delay tactics.”
Awomolo, however, said he took exception to the accusation of using delay tactics, adding that in his 42 years of being called to bar, he has never been so accused.
The prosecution counsel, however, stepped in and asked for 30 minutes stand down to allow tempers to cool off.
When the tribunal eventually resumed sitting, both parties apologized for the altercation and the tribunal chairman adjourned to February 13 for the hearing of the applications.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the government, Aliyu Umar (SAN), told the tribunal that he observed that the embattled CJN has been continuously absent for proceedings.
“If at the next sitting, the defendant is not here, I will be forced to exercise the powers granted to me and ask for the appropriate orders (bench warrant),” he said.
In adjourning the trial to February 13, the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar said, “The presence of the defendant is needed here. Before he can make any application, he must first take his plea. There are many decisions of the Supreme Court to this effect. I appeal to the defence team to ensure the defendant is present at the next meeting.”