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May 10, 2019

Onnoghen Vs. Code of Conduct Tribunal: Was The Court of Appeal Right?

Onnoghen Vs. Code of Conduct Tribunal: Was The Court of Appeal Right?

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday, May 8th 2019 gave a ruling on the appeal filed by former CJN, Walter Onnoghen, challenging the legality of the Ex parte order given by the CCT to effect his suspension. While delivering its ruling, the Court of Appeal faulted the ex parte order and the process it was obtained, maintaining that it affects the right of fair hearing of Onnoghen. In holding this beautiful position, one expected the court to flow with the fair hearing principles and make consequential orders. But the Court committed what a witty lawyer would call "judicial summersault" by abstaining to consider the implication of the said position, canvassing that it would not consider the merit of the case since the CCT has completed the trial process and found him guilty. The Court therefore dismissed the appeal on that note.

This, to me, is the first judicial wonder of the century! Call it a travesty of justice and I will tell you that would be an understatement.

The Court of Appeal committed a grave error when it failed to address the issue before it. There is no relationship between the ex CJN’s suspension and his conviction. These are two different issues that require different rules and principles.

The current CJN is occupying a position that was necessitated by unlawful means based on the finding of the court and so, the Court should have voided the process that brought Tanko to office having found that it breached the ex CJN’s right to fair hearing. Macfoy v UAC (1962) AC 158 is a trite law that you cannot build something on nothing.


If the Exparte Order was unlawfully obtained according to the Court, on what ground is the appointment of Justice Tanko based?

Any Judgment or ruling based on a breach of the Constitution will not be allowed to stand on appeal. This is a trite law. I then ask again, on what ground is the Exparte Order allowed to stand?

How can it be explained that the ground upon which the breach of the ex CJN’s right to fair hearing cannot be entertained, is that he has been convicted? Is conviction a condition to decline jurisdiction or to dismiss a fundamental right case?

There is no law to my knowledge that says the Exparte Order can only be appealed during the pendency of the trial for it to be heard? Onnoghen's conviction is beyond whether or not the CJN can be removed from office by an Exparte Order. It’s a fundamental issue that requires a decision on merit. It has little or nothing to do with the ex CJN.

Is the Court of Appeal trying to say his rights can be overtaken by his conviction? Do we take this as ruling that conviction extinguishes the right to appeal against a breach of fundamental right or that conviction robs the Court the right to hear a breach of fundamental rights?

If the last hope of the common man is with the judiciary, it's time the judiciary rose beyond partisanship and favouritism to take its place. Injustice to one is injustice to all!

© Barr. Itsede K. Okhai

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