The National Judicial Council, NJC, has given the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, another seven days to respond to a fresh petition brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The council, which took the decision yesterday at its emergency meeting in Abuja, also resolved to constituted Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee, PCAC, to look into the petitions against Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko, as well as consider their responses to those petitions.
This decision is in accordance with Regulation 17 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2017.
The NJC had at its sitting on January 29 adjourned to February 11 after it gave both Onnoghen and Muhammad seven days to respond to the allegations against them.
However, a statement from the NJC’s Director of Information, Soji Oye, disclosed that the body at its emergency meeting yesterday received a fresh petition from the EFCC against Onnoghen, and he was directed to reply to it within the next seven days.
“The National Judicial Council reconvened today in an emergency meeting to consider the responses of Justices Walter Onnoghen, and Tanko Muhammad, to the three petitions written against them.
“Members resolved to constitute into the Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee in accordance with Regulation 17 of the National Judicial Council Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2017 and report to council on February 13, 2019. The Council will reconvene on Wednesday, February 13, 2019.
“Council also received a new petition written by the EFCC against Justice Onnoghen, and forwarded it to him for his response within seven working days”, the statement read, adding that the NJC reaffirmed its confidence in Justice Umaru Abdullahi, as Interim Chairman of the NJC.
Justice Abdullahi was at its first emergency meeting on January 29, elected to chair the meeting, following the absence of Onnoghen and Muhammad at the meeting. The council, which reaffirmed its confidence in the interim chairman, would reconvene on Wednesday, February 13.
Onnoghen and Muhammad had recused themselves from the meeting as a result of the petition against them.
The statement from the NJC Director of Information, Soji Oye, was however silent on the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Danladi Umar, whose petitions were referred by the council to the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, for consideration.
The four petitions brought against them were: Petition against Justice Onnoghen, by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education; petition against Justice Muhammad, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative; Petition against Muhammad, by Olisa Agbakoba SAN and petition against Umar, by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
But the CCT chairman reportedly shunned the FJSC on the ground that he was only answerable to the Presidency.
The commission was asked to sanction Umar for abusing court processes and granting an ex parte order removing Onnoghen, when he had not yet been convicted.
Umar responded: “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.”