The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday rose from its emergency meeting in Abuja and gave suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, seven days to respond to petitions written against them.
Also caught in the wave of petitions is the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Umar, whose matter was referred to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for consideration.
Umar also has a formal complaint to attend to at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), where a former president of the association, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, has filed a demand for the withdrawal of his practice licence.
However, Justice Onnoghen has appealed the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, ordering his suspension.
The NJC had on Sunday summoned the emergency meeting to look into the constitutionality of the suspension of the CJN.
However, at the meeting held yesterday at the NJC’s Secretariat in Abuja, both Onnoghen and Muhammad were not in attendance as they recused themselves.
A former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, according to a statement by NJC’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, was elected to preside as interim chairman.
The council, according to the statement, considered four petitions in all: one against Onnoghen, two against Muhammad and one against the Umar.
It stated, “The National Judicial Council held an emergency meeting today (yesterday) and considered four petitions filed at its secretariat.
“The petitions are: Petition against Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education; petitions against Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative and Olisa Agbakoba, (SAN); and petition against Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.”
It added that while the council referred the petition against Umar to the FJSC, which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it, the council in line with its procedures forwarded the petitions against Onnoghen and Muhammad to them for their responses.
“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from 14 to seven working days for the Justices to respond. Justice Onnoghen and Justice Muhammad recused themselves from the meeting. Consequently, the council elected Justice Umaru Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting. Council will reconvene on February 11, 2019”, the statement added. The judiciary has been in the eye of the storm in the last two weeks following the federal government’s attempt to arraign Onnoghen over alleged failure to disclose his assets as at when due.
The federal government had slammed a six-count charge of false asset declaration charges against the CJN.
He is being accused of failing to declare some funds in his domiciliary accounts with Standard Chartered Bank, Wuse 2 branch, Abuja as at when due.
While Onnoghen has challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the suit, the Federal High Court Abuja, the FCT High Court and the National Industrial Court in their separate ruling on exparte motion brought before them had ordered the CCT to halt the trial.
Supreme court dismisses Atiku server suit
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Atiku Abubakar, seeking to Inspect the central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for lacking in merit.
The apex court held that the request lacked merit because it was brought by Atiku after the parties had joined issues on the existence or otherwise of the server.
According to the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Chima Nweze, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was in order in refusing to grant Atiku’s request at the time it was made so as not to prejudice other parties in the matter.
In addition, the apex court held that the appeal lacked merit because the appellants failed to prove how the decision of the tribunal was unfair to them.
Justice Nweze said a party can only complain of the lack of fair hearing when discretion of court was wrongly or arbitrarily used by the court, adding that in this instant case the tribunal used its discretion judicially and judiciously.
“I see no reason to depart from the decision of the lower court, the appeal is lacking in merit and is hereby dismissed,” the judge held.
Supreme Court set to rule on INEC server
The Supreme Court has suspended proceedings to rule on an appeal by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election, for permission to be allowed access to a supposed server owned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) had on June 24, 2019, dismissed an application by Atiku and the PDP requesting permission to have access to the central server, which they claimed INEC used for the February 23 poll.
It is the decision of June 24 that Atiku and the PDP now appealed at the Supreme Court.
A panel of the Supreme Court (led by Justice Datijo Mohammed after taking arguments from Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, (for the appellants); Yunus Usman, SAN, (for INEC); Wole Olanipekun, SAN, (for President Muhammadu Buhari) and Charles Edosomwan, SAN, (for the All Progressives Congress), rose briefly to consider the arguments and return for its decision.
The Election Petition Court, at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, had, while dismissing the application by Atiku and the PDP, held that INEC, having denied the existence of the said server and insisted that results of the election were not electronically transmitted into any server as claimed by the petitioners (Atiku and PDP), granting the application would amount to deciding the central issue in the petition at the interlocutory stage.
The court’s Presiding Justice, Justice Mohammed Garba, who read the ruling, added that granting the application would imply that the court had “indeed recognised and found out that there is a central server into which results of the held on February 23, 2019 were electronically transmitted by the 1st respondent (INEC).”
Buhari tasks ministers on team work
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja told ministers-designate that they must work as a team, stressing that his administration would rely on them to implement policies and programs to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
The president also described as frightening Nigeria’s “looming” population status, which he put at 200 million today but has been estimated by the United Nations (UN) to rise to 411 million by 2050.
He told the would-be ministers in Abuja at the opening of the two-day retreat for them that “working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing.”
The retreat is to familiarise the incoming cabinet members with governance process and to let them know expectations of them.
The retreat also began on a day the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, refused to grant an order by indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seeking to stop the president from swearing in the 43 ministers-designate.
In his speech at the retreat, Buhari said: “As ministers, I am counting on you together with advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to building upon our road map of policies, programs, and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
“Our administration’s eight years will have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the world’s great nations.”
The president also told participants at the retreat to see their appointments as a great privilege and to ensure that they put in their best because Nigeria needs frontline individuals to address its many challenges.
He warned them to prepare for arduous commitments, which would require long hours of work and acute labor all geared towards optimal performance.
Buhari seized the occasion to give account of activities of his administration in the first term.
He said: “First – we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.
“Second – we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.
“Third – on corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption.”
BREAKING: S’Court strikes out Atiku, PDP suit
The Supreme Court has struck out an appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election.
The appeal marked SC/738/2019 was filed against a ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), in which it held that the Atiku and the PDP do not have a reply to an application filed on May 14, 2019, by the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking among others, the dismissal of their (Atiku and the PDP) challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the last presidential election.
In a ruling on Tuesday, a five-man panel led by Justice Datijo Mohammed struck out the appeal for having become statute-barred.
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