Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has constituted a Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee to look into the petitions against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko and to also consider their responses to the petitions against them.
The decision is in accordance with Regulation 17 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2017.
Meanwhile, the council has again issued a seven-day ultimatum to Justice Onnoghen to respond to a fresh petition against him.
The emergency meeting of the council which was presided over by a retired president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, considered the responses of justices Onnoghen and Tanko to the three petitions against them.
The council received a new petition written by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Justice Onnoghen and forwarded it to him for his response within seven working days.
The council which reaffirmed its confidence in the interim chairman will reconvene on Wednesday, February 13.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the NJC Director of Information, Soji Oye, confirming this position, was silent on the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CTT), Danladi Umar, whose petitions were referred by the council to the Federal Judicial Service Commission for consideration.
According to the NJC, the four petitions brought against them were: Petition against Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education; Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative; Petition against Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, and Petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
But the CCT chairman has reportedly shunned the Federal Judicial Service Commission on the grounds that he was only answerable to the Presidency.
The Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative had in a petition signed by Grace Wogor, asked the commission to sanction Umar for abusing court processes and granting an ex parte order removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, when the CJN had not yet been convicted.
However, in his written response to the petition, Umar stated clearly that he was only answerable to the presidency and not the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
His written response dated February 6, 2019, and marked CCT/HQ/FJSC/S/01 and addressed to the acting Chairman of the FJSC, Umar said: “With regard to the prayer of the petitioner for an appropriate sanction against the chairman, it is important to note that the chairman and members of the tribunal, not being judicial officers, are not constitutionally subject to any disciplinary proceedings by either the National Judicial Council or the Federal Judicial Service Commission but the Presidency.”