Appeal Court Withholds Judgement On Onnoghen's Four Appeals
Justice Walter Onnoghen has five pending appeals before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, but none of them was decided before he was convicted and removed from office by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday.
Onnoghen filed the sixth appeal on Thursday to challenge his conviction by the CCT.
The appeals were filed within the three months the historic trial of the ex-CJN lasted.
One of the five pre-judgment appeals Onnoghen filed on March 29 to challenge the CCT’s decision to dismiss his no-case submission has not been heard as the defence and prosecution have yet to exchange briefs on it.
While four out of the six pending appeals were heard on February 27, the Court of Appeal continues to withhold its judgments on them about seven weeks after the verdicts were reserved.
Speaking with to reporters on Friday, one of the lawyers in Onnoghen’s legal team, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), confirmed that with the one filed on Thursday to challenge the conviction, there were six appeals relating to the trial at the Court of Appeal.
He said, “Before the judgment on Thursday, we had five appeals. But with the one filed yesterday (Thursday), we now have six appeals.
“Out of the six appeals, four have been heard, but judgments have not been delivered despite having been heard many weeks ago.”
Asked on Friday if the defence team had received the date for the judgments, Uche said, “no”.
Although the constitution gives a court a period not more than three months to deliver its judgment or ruling after the hearing of any application or a suit, Onnoghen’s legal team and aides have been expressing concerns about the delayed judgments of the Court of Appeal.
Onnoghen’s lead defence counsel in his trial at CCT, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had earlier expressed disappointment with the development when responding to our correspondent’s enquiry.
He said, “We are highly disappointed that the Court of Appeal has not delivered its judgments on the appeals by the CJN despite the far-reaching constitutional implications of the appeals.
“This is a case that affects the judiciary, but things have slowed down at the Court of Appeal.”
But the prosecuting counsel, Mr Aliyu Umar (SAN), who led the Federal Government’s team to oppose the appeals at the higher court, had also dismissed the concerns expressed by the defence in an interview with our correspondent.
“The Court of Appeal has three months within which to give judgments, and they are still within their right, as long as they don’t exceed three months,” Umar said.
One of Onnoghen’s four appeals already heard by the Court of Appeal challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the non-declaration of assets charges instituted against him before the CCT.
Another appeal challenged the February 23 ex parte order which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to suspend him as the CJN and to appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad as the acting CJN on February 25.
The third appeal challenged the CCT’s refusal to be bound by the orders made by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court directing the tribunal to halt the CJN’s trial.
The fourth one asked the court to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him by the CCT on February 13.
On February 27, a three-man bench of the court led by Justice Steven Adah finally heard the four appeals and reserved judgments, after the cases had been previously adjourned on three occasions.
Justice Adah, who led Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Justice Peter Ige on the panel, said the date for the judgments would be communicated to the parties when the judgments are ready.
But seven weeks after no date for the judgment has been communicated.
The remaining two appeals yet to be heard are the ones challenging the March 28 ruling of the CCT, on Onnoghen’s no-case submission, and another challenging the judgment of the tribunal which convicted him on Thursday.
The three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar after convicting Onnoghen, ordered his removal as the CJN and the Chairman of both the National Judicial and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.