Lawyers hailed yesterday the action of the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the crisis of integrity rocking the Judiciary.
The NJC at its emergency meeting in Abuja issued suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen and Acting CJN Tanko Muhammad a seven-day deadline to respond to petitions pending against them.
The petition against Justice Onnoghen relates to the allegation of violation of the code of conduct for public officers in relation to his alleged failure to declare his assets.
Justice Muhammad is alleged to have engaged in misconduct in allowing himself to be sworn in in a manner that breached law, tradition and constitutional provisions.
NJC’s spokesman Soji Oye said in a statement that the council also elected to refer the petition against Code of Conduct (CCT) Chairman Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
It was learnt that Justice Onnoghen and Justice Muhammad were not at the meeting, which was chaired by retired Court of Appeal President Umaru Abdullahi.
The case against Umar, 2timexmedia learnt, relates to his alleged abuse of judicial authority or breach of constitutional provisions by the orders he made in the course of proceedings in the charge against the suspended CJN.
In one of such orders, the CCT rejected to be bound by High Courts orders directing it to stay proceedings.
Another is the ex-parte order the CCT made on which President Muhammadu Buhari claimed to have relied in suspended Onnoghen and inaugurating Justice Muhammad in acting capacity.
It was also learnt that the NJC chose to abridge the usual 14 days response time to seven, in view of the weighty issues involved in the petitions.
The NJC is to reconvene on February 11.
“I’m happy with the development. NJC and the Judiciary will work together to strengthen our judicial system,” rights activist and lawyer Monday Ubani said.
The statement reads: “The National Judicial Council held an Emergency Meeting today and considered four (4) petitions filed at its Secretariat. The petitions are:
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON by Zikhrillahi Ibrahim of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civil Education;
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative;
“Petition against Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR by Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, OON; and
“Petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar, Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal by Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
“Council referred the petition against Hon. Danladi Yakubu Umar to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) which is the appropriate constitutional body empowered to deal with it.
“In line with its procedure, Council also forwarded the petitions against Hon. Justices W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON and I. T. Muhammad, CFR to them for their responses.
“In view of the gravity of the matters involved, Council abridged the usual response period from fourteen (14) to seven (7) working days for the Hon. Justices to respond.
“Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON and Hon. Mr. Justice I.T. Muhammad, CFR recused themselves from the meeting. Consequently, Council elected Hon. Mr. Justice Umaru Abdullahi, CON, former President of the Court of Appeal, as Interim Chairman to preside over the meeting.
“Council will reconvene on the 11th February, 2019.”