The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, has given reasons the National Judicial Council, NJC, lacked the powers to try the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN Walter Onnoghen, SAN.
Sagay noted that the Code of Conduct Bureau Act covers all public officers, including the CJN, adding that where it finds an officer guilty of a breach of the Act, it can inflict necessary punishment on the individual.
In a interview with New Telegraph, Sagay, a renowned lawyer, pointed out that almost all Senior Advocates of Nigeria who have argued that Onnoghen’s case shall be taken to the NJC rather than to the CCT, can’t be serious.
He continued, “The NJC lacks power to sit over the case of any judge that is accused of not declaring his assets according to the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
“If he is removed from office by the NJC and he ceases to be a judicial officer as well as a public officer, can he therefore be tried as a public officer before the Code of Conduct Tribunal?
“The answer is no, because he is no longer a public officer. The extant provisions of the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act would be rendered nugatory, by a prior NJC involvement.
“The CCB Act covers all public officers including the CJN and where it finds an officer guilty of a breach of the Act, it can inflict necessary punishment on the individual.
“After a perusal of the application and evidence in support, and if satisfied with such evidence, the tribunal shall cause the defendant to be brought before it on such a date and such a time as it may direct.
“When the tribunal is ready to commence trial, the defendant shall be brought before it and the tribunal shall read or cause to be read to the defendant the substance of the complaint against him and he shall be asked whether he is guilty of the offence or offences as charged.
“Almost all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), who have argued that even in a case involving the breach of the Code of Conduct, for which the law has already made express provisions, that the matter shall be taken to the NJC rather than to the CCT can’t be serious.
“They must obviously be speaking tongue in cheek. Even a baby must realise that no one can get justice against the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the NJC.
“The CJN is not just only the Chairman of the NJC; he is also the appointor of 20 out of the NJC’s 23 members. The CJN is the NJC. Only a grossly ignorant man or an extremely mischievous one could seriously suggest that a matter involving the CJN should be brought before the NJC for adjudication.
“Therefore, the whole idea of taking the present case to the NJC is a nonstarter because it would make the CJN the Chief Judge of his own case; a clear violation, not only of the Constitution, but also of a long standing common law principle coming all the way from MAGNA CARTER in the year 1215.
“It should also be noted that in addition to the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the Constitution itself expressly provides for the establishment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“(See 5th Schedule of the Constitution, Part One Paragraph 15). In fact, the Constitution itself makes the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act, part of itself by including it as a schedule.
“Therefore, in dealing with the scope and powers of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, we are dealing with a matter that is provided for in the Constitution, not a mere Act of the National Assembly.”