Abuja – Justice E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, restrained President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) from forcefully removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, from office.
Justice Ekwo gave the order while ruling on a motion ex parte brought by the Action Peoples Party.
Other defendants in the application are Justice Walter Onnoghen, Justice Ibrahim Tanko, the Code of Conduct Bureau chief and the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The court ordered parties to maintain status quo ante pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“This means that parties must observe the rule of law by not doing anything that would tamper with the res in this matter pending the determination of the motion on notice”, Justice Ekwo warned.
More so, the court abridged the time within which the defendants may file their counter affidavit to the substantive originating summons to a period of seven days from the date of service of the processes.
Justice Ekwo also granted an order for accelerated hearing and determination of the substantive originating summons.
In addition, the court made an order of substituted service on President Muhammadu Buhari and the AGF as well as the other defendants.
However, the court was silent on relief 5 which had sought for an order of interim injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th defendants, whether by themselves, officers, agents, servants, privies or otherwise, howsoever, described from appointing or directing the 4th defendant (the Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad) to take over as the acting chairman of the National Judicial Council and as the acting Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Monday fixed January 24 to hear an application filed by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) on behalf of the CJN, asking the court for an oral order stopping the CCT from proceeding with the trial.
Awomolo said the order was necessary to preserve the subject matter of the case at the CCT.
But the three-member panel chaired by Justice Abdul Aboki after a short consultation declined the request.
“We are of the view that no form of order shall be made at this stage pending hearing of a motion on notice adjourned till January 24,” the panel ruled.
Awomolo had made the request after the Federal Government’s counsel, Emmanuel Omonuwa, demanded three days to reply to the motion on notice.
Omonuwa said he was only served the process on Monday morning but appeared before the court out of respect.
The tribunal had on January 14 fixed January 22 for hearing in the six-count charge of false assets declaration filed against the CJN by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had also filed a motion asking for an order directing Onnoghen to stepdown as the CJN pending hearing and determination of the case against him.
Recall that Justice Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had issued two separate orders asking parties to maintain the status quo in the CJN’s trial.
The plaintiffs are the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, and the Incorporated Trustees of International Association of Students.
The two plaintiffs had through separate applications on January 14 obtained interim orders directing the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the substantive suits, which was fixed for Thursday for hearing.
The respondents are the CCT chairman, Justice Danladi Umar; the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; the Inspector General of Police, the National Judicial Council chaired by Onnoghen and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Paschal Njoku of DAILY INDEPENDENT.