Onnoghen’s Suspension: Let The Rule Of Law Prevail – Barr. West-Idahosa
Is the CJN exempted from the presumption of innocence guaranteed by our laws? Is the CJN’s appointment not clothed with statutory flavor? If you cannot sack a clerk in a Government Department outside the provisions prescribed by his terms of employment/ public service rules, I wonder why the CJN should be removed from office like a feather from a chicken! If it’s that simple, there would have been no need for constitutional provisions in that regard! Why then did Baron Montesquieu and his likes labour to develop the political theory of separation of powers? Why is it now an elementary feature in the constitutional democracy of most countries of the world?
According to Dylan Matthews in his article dated 5/10/18 and titled; IMPEACHING A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE IN THE UNITED STATES;
“Impeachment and removal of a federal judge, including a Supreme Court justice, requires meeting a high political bar. Just as with presidents, a majority of the House must approve an indictment to impeach, and a two-thirds supermajority of the US Senate must convict for the judge or justice to lose their office.”
I am surprised that a lot of people continue to refer to the allegations against the CJN without considering the procedure prescribed by law to deal with certain category of persons accused of any infraction of the law. I have argued on many occasions that the law itself is a prisoner of procedure. It is illogical to focus on the substantive law which creates, defines and regulates the duties, liabilities and rights of persons while disregarding the procedural law for enforcing civil and criminal law. This does not add up. For example, can you safely convict a man for an offence having not taken his plea before trial? I think not.
I am still at a loss as to how a court of law or an inferior Tribunal like the Code of Conduct Tribunal can grant an ex-parte order on a date unknown to all parties, following a purported ex-parte application in respect of a subject matter which the same body adjourned to a future date for arguments to be taken from the respective parties as agreed in open court.
Why would an inferior Tribunal not obey the restraining orders of separate superior court of records which restrained it from continuing with the proceedings before it? Nothing in the Constitution makes CCT a superior court of records and the Supreme Court affirmed this in Saraki vs FRN (2016) 3 NWLR( Pt. 1500) 531.
Why will the CCT not respect the proceedings pending before the court of appeal to which appeals from CCT lie?
In the operational system of the rule of law, the courts and judges remain the tonic from which the law itself is nourished. Let me fizzle out any doubt about the power of the courts by referring to the words of the legendary American Supreme Court judge and scholar, Oliver Wendell Holmes, jrn. The learned jurist in his work; The Common Law, (1881) had this to say;
“The decisions of judges, viewed over time, determined the rules of conduct, the legal duties, by which all were bound.”
He did not stop there. In his work; The path of the law (1897), he went further to say that;
“[T]he prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.”:458.
Against this background, can it be said that the CCT was right to have disregarded pending litigation in the courts of our country which have constitutional duties to determine disputes between persons and Government? The answer in my opinion is no.
No sensible person can be opposed to the lawful trial of anyone, no matter how highly placed if there is an allegation of infringing the law against such a person. The very strong point being made here is very simple; where there is a constitutional method set out for sanctioning a judicial office holder which has over time being recognized by the courts of law, such judicial officer cannot be removed by any other means other than that prescribed by law.
In the circumstances, the CCT was wrong to have made the ex-parte order under reference. If the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation facilitated this type of order, then it acted infra dig. The President was also wrong to have acted on it. The proper thing to do now is for the aggrieved party to get the court of Appeal to set that unlawful ex-parte order aside forthwith and let the status quo be returned in our national interest. That would not stop the Government from prosecuting the CJN upon the charges brought against him as long as they do so appropriately.
God bless Nigeria!