The court room of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja on Monday was thrown into confusion as Danladi Umar, the CCT Chairman, and Adegboyega Awomolo, the Defence Counsel, exchanged words over the application for adjournment moved by the defence.
At the resumed hearing of allegations of fraudulent declaration of assets instituted against Onnoghen.
In his submission, Awomolo told the court that the petitioner had sent the same petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body empowered to investigate and discipline any indicted sitting judicial officer.
He said the body had forwarded same petition to the defendant to respond to the issues raised. He, therefore, prayed that the tribunal should tarry a while and adjourn the matter to enable the NJC conclude their investigations and take a decision.
He also appealed to the court not to allow the defendant suffer double jeopardy, adding that the position is in the interest of justice and the integrity of the tribunal.
Trouble started when Umar interjected and insisted that the court would go ahead with the preliminary objection brought by the defence challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
He said the approach of the defence counsel is tantamount to delay tactics in the hearing of the case, adding that with experience of Awomolo in the bar, he did expect him to come up with such approach. He, thus, faulted him for moving such motion.
He maintained that the matter would not be adjourned since the tribunal has assumed jurisdiction to hear the case.
In a swift reaction, Awomolo stood up in anger to take exception to the remarks of the CCT Chairman. He said he had spent 25 years as Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and been in the bar for 45 years and could not stand before the junior lawyers to be ridiculed and embarrassed by Umar.
The altercation lasted for 10 minutes before the matter was stood down for a few minutes to allow both defence and prosecution reach an agreement on the adjournment.
On his part, the prosecution counsel, Aliu Umar, said he was not opposed to the application for adjournment, noting that he had agreed with the defence on the matter to be adjourned. He added that the defendant had been consistently absent in court, and warned that if the defendant failed to appear on the next adjournment date, he would be forced to apply for a bench warrant for his arrest.
When the court reconvened, the second member of the tribunal, William Atedze, apologised on behalf of the tribunal over what transpired in the court on the part of the Chairman.
Awomolo also tendered his apology to the court.
The Chairman said on the instances of the position of both parties, the matter would be adjourned till February 13, 2019. He, therefore, directed the defendant to appear in court to take his plea before the hearing of any preliminary application.