The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has called for careful consideration and caution on various allegations of false and non-declaration of full assets and money laundering against Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
This is as a petition by a group, the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI) at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), has led to plans to have the CJN arraigned for trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) today (Monday) in Abuja.
Mr. Debo Adeniran, CACOL’s Executive Chairman, in a statement issued by Adegboyega Otunuga, the group’s Coordinator, Media and Publications, maintained that “The whiff of allegations of corruption against the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) has been on for sometimes, but seems to have died down after the controversial sting operations carried out against some judges of the High Court.
He maintained that the National Jucicial Council should by now have been sentisised on the enormity of the allegations against Justice Onnoghen, and its opinion obtained before the CJN’s arraignment.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that this is a high stake scandal or allegation considering the CJN is the Number Seven man in the order of hierarchy, though we are all witnesses to the Number Three man having being tried on same allegations of corruption in the past.”
Adeniran stressed that considering how vital and tenuous the Judiciary is as the last hope of the common man and the CJN being the very pinnacle of such strategic arm of government, “we believe that following conventional procedures and practice is required so as not to give an impression of one arm of government, undermining or blackmailing another arm.”
Adeniran argued: “Among other things, the CJN is to be arraigned on six-count charge of: His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen as 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 CACOL boss added: “It is a trite saying that nobody should be above the law and especially in this instance where a body as vital as the Judiciary is affected because, as they say, ‘If the head is rotten, then what hope has the other parts’.
“We therefore expect that the Judiciary, through the NJC (National Judicial Council), would have been sensitised to the enormity of these allegations and made to give its opinion on the culpability or otherwise of the CJN.
“Once this is done, it then behooves on the Chief Justice of the Federation to vacate his position pending the determination of his culpability or innocence in this weighty allegations so as not to be seen to wallow in continuous desecration of his hallowed office.”
The Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI) had alleged that Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 each on March 8, 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account 1062650.
It also alleged that the CJN on June 7, 2011, made two separate cash deposits of $5, 000 each, which was 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 affidavit for SCN: 000014 was sworn to on 14th December 2016; 2 of 6 b. The affidavit for SCN: 000015 were sworn to on h December 14, 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,’’ the petitioner alleged.