The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, has said that he is not a judicial officer and consequently not answerable to any institution but the presidency.
A petition against him (Umar) by the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative was recently directed to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The petitioner had asked the NJC to sanction the CCT Chairman for abusing court processes and granting an order in which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, without been convicted.
Mr. Umar however in his response to the petition which was directed to him by the FJSC said; “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.”
Mr. Umar in his response dated February 6, 2019 with reference number CCT/HQ/FJSC/S/01, added that at the time of inauguration, members of the CCT only took official oaths and not judicial oaths.
“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.
“This is predicated on the fact that the chairman and members of the tribunal, during swearing-in, only subscribe to official oaths and not judicial oaths. Therefore, not being a judicial officer, I did not subscribe to judicial oaths as alleged.”
To back his position, Mr. Umar attached a letter dated May 18, 2015, with reference number NJC/CIR/HOC/1/74 which was signed by the former CJN and Chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
In the letter, the then CJN asked members of the CCT to stop referring to themselves as justices as they were not 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 by ex-CJN Mohammed read in parts.
He however explained why he granted the order to suspend the CJN. Mr. Umar in his explanation noted that he gave the order because it was within his power.