Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The executive secretary, Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), Dennis Aghanya, has expressed satisfaction over the outcome of his petition against the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (rtd). He said he is fulfilled that his petition led to Onnoghen’s resignation and helped ‘sanitise’ the judiciary.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Aghanya said that despite the fact he was criticised for writing a petition against Onnoghen, he will do it again if the oppourtunity arises.
How do you feel following the resignation of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, which was as a result of your petition?
I don’t feel fulfilled because I brought somebody down, but I feel fulfilled that I was able to render service to my country. I am sure that my contributions in helping to sanitise the judiciary will go a very long way to reposition that arm of government. Like I have always said, the judiciary is a very vital arm of government, it is more important than the executive and the legislature as far as I understand because no matter what happens within the other two arms of government, it is the judiciary that is the final arbiter. So, every effort must be made to strengthen that arm of government like what we are doing now. We are focusing more on the judiciary, that is our area of emphasis. We want to contribute our quota. So, we feel fulfilled that we took a very bold step. I am sure it is a step that most people would naturally shy away from and the consequences are so enormous.
How did you handle the backlash as a lot of people were calling for your head?
Yes. I understand. That is why I said it was an enormous task and the consequences of my action are still haunting me.
There are people who are so convinced that I stopped their means of livelihood – people, cronies of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, his political associates. Though they are a very infinitesimal segment of the society, but they have never allowed me to rest.
Are they after your life?
Yes. They are after my life. In fact, I don’t just like emphasising that so that I don’t harp on what they are doing. That is why I have kept quiet. But I receive threat messages; they go through close associates, sending warnings to me that I must go down six feet. So, I kept wandering.
They allegedly took it to that extent?
Yes. I said well, I am happy I rendered service to my fatherland. I don’t have remorse for that. I feel fulfilled and if I have the opportunity, I will do it one million times. In fact, since after that, we have handled some other very sensitive cases. There are some I made sure so that we can succeed with our investigation processes. I tried to conceal our identity because they are serious issues. Even though we focus more on the judiciary, but we try to expand our dragnet to other areas. There are some individuals, like we recently discovered a former public officer (I wouldn’t want to mention for the purpose of investigation) who through shoddy deals made a lot of money, money that is above fifteen billion in his accounts. We were able to trace those accounts and we have taken steps to report to the appropriate authorities.
In the case of Onnoghen, how did you get to know about the issue?
It is just the way we got to know about what I just mentioned and so many others. We are also currently working on some institutions.
What is your take on those who believe that the President used you to bring down Onnoghen?
That is an assumption. It is an assumption and everybody is entitled to his opinion. But funny a thing, I can’t remember when last I saw the President.
You mean you have not seen the President recently?
Since 2011, I have not met with the President one-on-one. I have not.
How about his associates?
Even his associates who were my close associates in those days.
So, you are no longer in touch with them?
I am not in touch with them. In fact, when I hear people say the President used me, I just keep laughing. So, people don’t believe one can render genuine service anymore? Although, it is not out of place for the society to recognise my good effort; even for the president to recognise my effort. But I didn’t do it for them to recognise. It is not out of place that the society, including the administration to recognise you when you do a good job.
]Have you ever met Onnoghen before and after the entire saga?
No. I have never met Onnoghen one-on-one.
So, if he sees you, he won’t recognise you?
He can’t recognise me and I won’t even recognise him apart from his pictures I saw. I can’t recognise him. He has not met me and I have not met him before and after. I never had any personal thing against him.
So, you just wanted the judiciary sanitised?
That is the point.
Following your petition against Onnoghen, there was the issue of your community ostracising you. Is it true?
No. It is not true. It is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in the South East that peddled that rumour. Of course, they felt what I did was against their political interest. They are not happy with me. I also have my brothers and sisters who are in the All Progressives Congress (APC). They made it a party issue, but I will tell you that majority of my people in the South East see me as a hero. They respect me and they know I am a principled person. Even if you trace down my family history, my elder brother, Ibe Aghanya, retired as a Commissioner of Police. He served in Kogi State and retired from there. He also served in Benue State and Ekiti as Commissioner. His story is being told till today. In those days when the Okene issue was at its peak, he was the one who handled it.
So uprightness is inherent in your family?
It is part of my family. In fact, people from my area were not surprised when they heard that I took up this assignment because we are the kind of people that when we believe in something, we follow it to the end.