Jul 17, 2019

Code of Conduct Tribunal: A Clash of Judicial and Executive Powers #NBAAGC2019

Part 1, of the fifth schedule in the Nigerian Constitution provides for the code of conduct of public officers. In essence, the CCB was established for the purpose of addressing issues relating to the conduct of public officers during their tenure of holding office, also especially to fight corruption in the public service.

The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Chapter 58 LFN 1990, gave the Bureau the mandate to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.

In recent months, the CCT came under public scrutiny over the trial of the past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen JSC (Rtd). Following the trial, a petition was written against the Code of Conduct Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar and same was submitted by a group under the platform of Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for allegedly abusing his judicial powers.


The CCT Chairman, however snubbed a query the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), issued to get his reaction to the petition accusing him of engaging in reckless abuse of judicial powers on the ground that that he is not a judicial officer and further that unlike judicial officers, members of the CCT, at the time of their inauguration, take official oaths and not judicial oaths.

According to him, “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. “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.

The CCT Chairman also provided a letter marked NJC/CIR/HOC/1/74, which had specifically barred members of the CCT from referring to themselves as Justices. The then CJN, noted that going by provisions of Paragraph 15 (1 and 2) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, members of the CCT panel could not be regarded as judges. “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”, the letter added.

Another issue that came to the fore was the power of the CCT Chairman to order the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria following an exparte application filed before the CCT. These issues have caused heated national debates with the Courts of Law also being sort to give a definite position on the impasses.

These issues would be one of the issues discussed at the upcoming NBA Annual General Conference and panelists who will speak to the issue are the Learned Silks, Mr. Mike Ozekhome, SAN and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN. The Learned Silks will certainly have a lot to say about the legal position regarding the CCT and all lawyers who are interested in the Rule of Law and due process in Nigeria should make sure to attend.