Nigeria is prosecuting dissenting CJN, Onnoghen
Nigerian government is prosecuting the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen, over alleged discrepancy in his asset declaration forms. It is mandatory that public officials declare their assets before Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)
The CCT has Scheduled January 14 for the arraignment of Justice Walter Onnoghen. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, the tribunal’s Head, Press and Public Relations, said this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
But the prosecution of Onnoghen is being viewed as a political witch-hunt against the CJN who had ruled some cases in favour of the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It is remarkable to note that the PDP won the case against Ali Modu Sheriff who claimed to be the chairman of the party following the ruling of the Supreme Court presided over by Onnoghen.
The Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative filed the petition at the Code of Conduct Bureau against Justice Onnoghen.
Dennis Aghanya, Executive-Secretary of the organization, who made the copy of the petition available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Abuja, said the body had acted as a whistleblower.
Aghanya said the petition, which was filed on January 7, was an offshoot of a painstaking investigation into the dealings of the CJN.
The petition reads in parts: “We hereby petition you on suspected violations of the law and the Constitution of Nigeria by the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Specifically, we petition you based on the alarming facts detailed below, all of which indicate that the leader of our country’s judicial branch is embroiled in suspected official corruption, financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
“The particulars of our findings indicate that: 1. His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself, up to as recently as 10th August 2016.
“These appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.”
The body had alleged that Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 dollars on March 8, 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account 1062650.
The group also alleged that the CJN on June 7, 2011 made two separate cash deposits of $5000 each.
It was also alleged that the June 7, 2011 transactions were followed by another four cash deposits of $10,000 each.
Similarly, ARDI further alleged that Justice Onnoghen had on June 27, 2011 made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10,000 on June 28, 2011.
The body alleged that the CJN had also failed to declare his assets immediately after taking office, adding that the inaction was contrary to Section 15 (1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
ARDI also alleged that Onnoghen did not comply with the constitutional requirement for public servants to declare their assets every four years during their career.
The group alleged that the Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB 1) belonging to Justice Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day.
The group alleged that the acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000014 was issued on December 14, 2016, while that for Declarant SCN: 000015 was also issued on December 14, 2016.
The petitioner alleged that the two CCB acknowledgment slips were issued to the Justice Onnoghen when he had been sworn-in as the CJN.
The petition added: “The affidavit for SCN: 000014 was sworn to on 14th December 2016; 2 of 6 b. The affidavit for SCN: 000015 was sworn to on 14th December 2016.
“Both forms were received on 14th December 2016 by one Awwal Usman Yakasai.
“The discrepancy between Justice Walter Onnoghen’s two CCB forms that were filed on the same day is significant.
“In filling the section on Details of Assets, particularly cash in Nigerian Banks, His Lordship as Declarant SCN: 000014 mentioned only two bank accounts.”
According to the petitioner, the CJN runs Union Bank account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with balance of N9,536,407 on November 14, 2014.
The body alleged that the second account the CJN agreed to run was Union Bank number 0012783291 in Calabar, with balance of N11,456,311 as at November 14, 2014.
The petitioner said the sources of the funds in the accounts were stated as salaries, estacodes and allowances.
The petitioner, however, alleged that Justice Onnoghen as Declarant SCN: 000015, had listed seven bank accounts that were in use.
The group said the CJN was linked to Standard Chartered account 00001062667, with balance of N3,221,807.05 as at November 14, 2016.
Another account they alleged was operated by the CJN was Standard Chartered account 00001062650, with balance of $164,804.82 as at November 14, 2016.
The other account linked to him is Standard Chartered with account number 5001062686, with balance of 55,154.56 Euros as at November 14, 2016 among others.