The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, says he is not a judicial officer and is therefore not answerable to any institution but the Presidency.
He, therefore, rejected the authority of the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
Umar said this while responding to a petition against him by an organisation, the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
In a petition signed by Grace Wogor, the group 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.
The FJSC subsequently issued a query to the CCT boss, asking him to respond to the allegations against him.
In his response, dated February 6, 2019, and marked CCT/HQ/FJSC/S/01 and addressed to the acting Chairman of the FJSC, Umar said he was not answerable to any institution but the Presidency.
He 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.”
Umar explained that at the time of inauguration, members of the CCT only take official oaths and not judicial oaths.
He said, “The petitioner alleged that judicial oaths were breached and that the National Judicial Council should consider appropriate sanctions. It is to be noted that the chairman and members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal are not judicial officers.
“This is predicated on the fact that the chairman and members of the tribunal, during swearing-in, only subscribe to official oaths and not judicial oaths. Therefore, not being a judicial officer, I did not subscribe to judicial oaths as alleged.”
On why he granted the ex parte order, Umar said he did so because it was within his power but added that he could not speak further since the matter was before the Court of Appeal and commenting on it would be subjudice.
The CCT boss also attached a letter dated May 18, 2015, which was signed by the then CJN and Chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
In the letter with reference number NJC/CIR/HOC/1/74, the then CJN asked members of the CCT to stop referring to themselves as justices as they were not judges.
The decision was made pursuant to Paragraph 15 (1 and 2) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The letter read in part, “From the foregoing provisions, no member, including the chairman of the CCT on appointment, is a judicial officer as defined in Section 318 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended unless he or she has held office as a judge of the superior court of record in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Onnoghen’s defence team has raised the alarm over what they described as lies contained in the records of proceedings of the CCT dated January 23, 2019.
It was the day the CCT chairman granted an ex parte order for the removal of the CJN.
The record of proceedings, which was made available to our correspondent, read, ‘complainant/applicant respondent (Onnoghen) in court’.
However, the defence maintained that the CJN was not in court when the ex parte order was granted by the CCT chairman; rather, only the prosecution was present.
“We have filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal.
Obviously, there is some hanky panky going on; otherwise, they would not have done that.
Everyone knows that neither the CJN nor his lawyers were in court when that ex parte order was granted,” one of Onnoghen’s lawyers said on Saturday.