The Supreme Court of Nigeria Friday struck out a motion filed by the Cross River State Government challenging the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The court declared that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter, and so dismissed the application.
Sequel to the controversial suspension of Onnoghen in January by an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Rivers State Government approached the Supreme Court with a request that the apex court should invoke section 232 (1) of the constitution to assume original jurisdiction on the matter.
The section provides that: “The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and a State or between States if and in so far as that dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.”
The implication of the above provision in the eyes of the law is that where the Supreme Court assumes original jurisdiction, a matter does not necessarily have to emerge from the lower court before it can be treated by the apex court.
However, in a reaction, the federal government was of the opinion that the section heavily relied upon by the Cross River State Government only allows the Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction where the matter is between a particular state and federal government.
The Supreme court said the matter for which the instant application was brought does not involve a dispute between the Cross River government and the federal government.
In its lead judgement as agreed to by four judges, and agreed by Paul Galinje, the apex court agreed with the legal position of the federal government that it lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter.
It was on this premise that the court upheld the objection raised by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, and in a verdict said that it would not delve into the merit of the substantive application.
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