Moments ago the embattled suspended CJN took plea and reportedly the trial adjourned to 11/3/2019. This brief account in just a sentence heralds lots of questions and the shape of our jurisprudence. Honestly looking at the turn of events it is even difficult to state how the law pans out.
Some months ago Nganjinwa Vs FRN was handed down that no prosecution of a Judicial Officer can take place without the internal prior sanction by the NJC which should culminate in the Judicial Officer’s sack before prosecution. This decision of the Court of Appeal has not been set aside so remains extant.
As at today Onnoghen JSC’s fate has not been decided by the NJC. Going by the Nganjiwa’s case, like that of Nganjinwa, a Federal High Court Judge and Ngwuta JSC, the trial of Onnoghen is premature.
If you marry it to the fact that the precursor to evidence in criminal trials is a plea. By taking plea the embattled CJN is already on trial. The adjournment which will be for the prosecution to start calling evidence naturally by the order of events doesn’t change the fact that trial has begun. By the extant Nganjiwa’s case this plea ought not to have been taken today. I stand to be corrected in this line of thought.
Then there is another ironical albatross. Section 306 of the ACJA bars stay of proceedings from affecting criminal trials. Thus there is no provision for pause in the litis pending the hearing of the appeal “upstairs “. Aboki JCA stated so succinctly in rejecting the embattled CJN’s prayer to stay proceedings.
It is doubtful from the spate of events if Nganjiwa Vs FRN is still a “virile ” authority. All needed baying to “popular demands “is for a warrant of arrest and the protesting Judicial Officer like Onnoghen JSC conforms.
With no stay of proceedings it is simply the embattled suspended CJN to face trial whilst he contests the jurisdiction of the tribunal, of course with NJC not taking any prior sanction then where lies Nganjinwa Vs FRN in the sordid scheme of things?
I am of the view that Onnoghen may have avoided the tribunal which he is entitled to (Courtesy of Igbeke Vs FRN, a defendant contesting jurisdiction of the court can stay away when the objection is taken and until decided. ). But there is a possibility of his disgrace by way of arrest and detention by the lackey Umar!
The principles of law will be tested. There will be several episodes obviously stretching our thinking and knowledge, at the end we may have a pot pourri of scenarios with laws /principles clashing like cymbals.
Such is the era.
Let the music play!!!