NJC issues 7-day query ultimatum to Onnoghen, Mohammed

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has issued letters of query to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen and the Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Mohammed.
The two judges were given seven days to respond to the queries.
Onnoghen was asked to respond to allegations levelled against him, especially why he failed to declare all his assets, as stipulated by law.
The Acting CJN, Mohammed, was also asked to explain why he allowed himself to be sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari without the recommendation of the Council, as stipulated by the Constitution.
According to a press release by the NJC’s Director (Information), Soji Oye, the council took the decisions after considering four petitions filed at its secretariat.
The statement explained that the petition against Onnoghen was by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education while two petitions against Muhammad came from Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
It added that the petition against Umar was authored by the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
The statement added, “Council referred the petition against Honourable Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission, which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.
“In line with its procedure, council also forwarded the petitions against Honourable Justices W.S.N. Onnoghen, (GCON) and I. T. Muhammad (CFR), to them for their responses.
“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, council abridged the usual response period from fourteen (14) to seven (7) working days for the honourable Justices to respond.”
Oye said the council would reconvene on February 11.
If the two judges are punished with dismissal, the third most senior Supreme Court Judge, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour of Lagos State, will replace them.

Meanwhile, Justice Onnoghen has gone before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to challenge the ex-parte order the CCT issued for his suspension.

He argued in the four grounds of appeal he lodged through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, that the Mr. Umar-led CCT erred in law by granting an ex-parte order for his removal, even when its jurisdiction to entertain the six-count charge the Federal Government levelled against him was being challenged.

He therefore applied for “an order setting aside the order of the tribunal made on the 23rd of January, directing the Appellant to step aside as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and a further order that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes all necessary measures to swear-in the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council.”

Onnoghen contended that “the exercise of powers over the motion ex-parte without first determining the jurisdiction of the tribunal amounted to unlawful exercise of jurisdiction and therefore void.”

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal had on January 24, ordered the CCT to halt further proceedings before it to await the outcome of an appeal Justice Onnoghen lodged before it.

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