Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government has filed a six-count criminal charge against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, over alleged non-declaration of assets that breached the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
Already, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has confirmed that the CJN would be arraigned tomorrow.
Justice Onnoghen is also being accused of maintaining domiciliary foreign currencies account, which comprised Dollars Account, Pound Sterling Account and Euro Account, which allegedly ran contrary to relevant laws, especially for public office holders.
He has been asked to immediately vacate his exalted office as Head of the nation’s judiciary over the alleged sundry asset declaration issues.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal said that it has scheduled Monday, January 14, for the commencement of the trial against Justice Onnoghen on the alleged charges.
This, the tribunal explained, “was consequent to application filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six-count charges.”
The statement signed by Ibraheem Al-Hassan, head, Press and Public Relations, Code of Conduct Tribunal, said that a service of summons has already been served on the CJN, saying that a three-man panel led by Justice Danladi Y. Umar, will commence the trial tomorrow.
AlHassan further disclosed that the application was filed yesterday by the operatives of CCB, dated January 11, 2019 and signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman and Fatima Danjuma Ali, containing the six-count charges. Justice Nnoghen whose appointment suffered unprecedented delay by President Muhammadu Buhari over undisclosed issues may be the first CJN in Nigeria to be arraigned for criminal charges by the Federal Government.
Sunday Sun learnt that apart a motion on notice is to be filed against him praying the tribunal to order him to vacate office and recuse himself so as to prevent alleged interference in his arraignment and trial.
The decision for his arraignment followed a petition dated January 7, 2019 addressed to the Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau.
The said petition is entitled “Petition against Honourable Mr. Justice W. S. Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, for sundry breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau requirements for public officials, including non-declaration and false declaration of assets.”
The petition which was signed by Chief Dennis Aghanya accused the CJN of ownership of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself up to as recently as August 10, 2016, which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and code of conduct for public officials.
Specially, the petitioner alleged that Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10, 000 each on March 8, 2011 into Standard Chartered bank account 1062650.
Also on June 7, 2011, two separate cash deposits of $5,000 each were made by Justice Onnoghen, followed by four cash deposits of $10, 000 each.
On June 27, 2011, Justice Onnoghen was also alleged to have made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10, 000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10, 000 each on the following day of June 28, 2011.
In addition, the petition alleged that the CJN did not declare his assets immediately after taking oath of office, contrary to section 15(1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal.
That the Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB1) of Hon. Justice Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day and his acknowledgment slip SCN: 000014 was issued on December 14, 2016, just as his acknowledgment slip for SCN: 000015 was also issued on December 14, 2016, at which point Justice Onnoghen had become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
It was further alleged by the petitioner that “in filling the section on details of assets, particularly cash, in Nigerian banks, His Lordship, as declarant SCN: 000014 mentioned only two bank accounts: Union Bank account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with balance of N9, 536, 407 as at November 14, 2014 and Union Bank account number 0012783291 in Calabar, with balance of N11, 456, 311, as at November 2014. The sources of the funds in these accounts are stated as salaries, estacodes and allowances.
“As declarant SCN: 000015, His Lordship, however, lists seven bank accounts: Standard Chartered account 00001062667, with balance of N3, 221, 807.05 as at November 14, 2016; Standard Chartered account 00001062667, with balance of $164, 804.82, as at November 14, 2016; Standard Chartered account 500106286, with a balance of Euros 55, 154.56, as at November 14, 2016; Standard Chartered account 5001062679 with balance of GBP108, 352.2, as at November 14, 2016;
Standard Chartered account 5001062693 with balance of N8, 131, 195.27, as at November 14, 2016; Union Bank account 00021464934 with balance of N23, 261, 568.89 as at November 14, 2016 and Union Bank account 00012783291 with balance of N14, 695, 029.12, as at November 14, 2016.
That prior to 2016, His Lordship appears to have suppressed or otherwise concealed the existence of these multiple domiciliary accounts owned by him, as well as the substantial cash balance in them.
“Standard Chartered Bank dollar account 1062650 had a balance of $391,401,28 on January 31, 2011: the Standard Chartered bank Euro account 5001062682 had a balance of EURO 49,971.71 on January 31, 2011 and Standard Chartered Bank pound sterling account 5001062679 had a balance of GBP 23, 409.66 on February 28, 2011.
“It is curious that these domiciliary accounts were not declared in one of the two CCB forms filed by Justice Onnoghen on the same December 14, 2016,” the petition reads in part.