In a move speculated as plot to oust the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen out of office, the Federal Government will tomorrow arraign the number one jurist before the Justice Danladi Yakubu led- Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja, on charges of failure to declare his assets, and for operating foreign currency accounts.
The CCT Headquarters in Abuja, Saturday, confirmed the planned arraignment in a statement signed by its Head of Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan.
Onnoghen was said to have been served on Friday with charges of refusal to declare his assets in breach of the provision of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, and that of operating foreign currency accounts.
It would be recalled that his appointment suffered unprecedented delay by President Muhammadu Buhari over undisclosed issues and he may end up as the first CJN to be arraigned for criminal charges by the Federal Government.
Apart from getting Onnoghen in the dock tomorrow, it is understood that the motion on notice has been filed against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), praying the CCT to order him to vacate office and rescue himself so as to prevent alleged interference in his arraignment and trial.
A civil society group- Anti-corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI) petitioned the CCB over some alleged illegal transactions discovered in the CJN’s bank accounts.
The letter dated January 7, 2019 bore a CCB “received” stamp, allegedly from the office of the Chairman of the bureau on January 9, 2019.
Contained in the petition include allegations that the CJN “is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself up to August 10, 2016, which was allegedly operated in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the Code of conduct for public officials.”
The group also alleged that Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10, 000 each on March 8, 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account No. 1062650; two separate cash deposits of $5000 each followed by four cash deposits of $10, 000 each on June 7, 2011; another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each on June 27, 2011, and four more cash deposits of $10,000 each the following day.
The petition further stated that Justice Onnoghen did not declare his assets immediately after taking office. This, it held, was contrary to section 15 (1) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
The CJN was also accused of violating the constitutional requirements for public servants to declare their assets every four years during their career.
Others include that the CJN’s Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB 1) for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day and that acknowledgement slips were issued for both of them on December 14, 2016, “at which point Justice Onnoghen had become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
It would be recalled that Onnoghen assumed office as CJN on March 6, 2017, and not in 2016 as quoted in the petition, even though he was serving in acting capacity at the time.
The group equally alleged that prior to 2016, Onnoghen appeared “to have suppressed or otherwise concealed the existence of these multiple domiciliary accounts owned by him, as well as the substantial cash balances in them.”
ARDI in the petition listed that Justice Onnoghen is the owner of Standard Chartered Bank dollar account No.1062650 with a balance of $391, 401.28 as at January 31, 2011; Standard Chartered Bank Euro account 5001062686 with the balance of €49,971 .71 as at January 31, 2011, as well as, a Standard Chartered Bank pound sterling account No. 5001062679, with the balance sum of £23,409.66, as at February 28, 2011.
The petitioner described as “curious”, the fact that such domiciliary accounts were not declared in one of the two CCB Forms filed by Justice Onnoghen on the same December 14, 2016.
The group held that the petition has succeeded in establishing suspicious financial and other transactions against the CJN, stressing that the collusion between him and various banks related to “Suspicious Transactions Reporting (STR) and financial transactions not justifiable by his lawful remuneration at all material times.
The statement by Head, Press and Public Relations, CCT, Abuja, Ibrahim Al-Hassan, which informed that the tribunal has scheduled Monday, January 14, for the commencement of trial “for alleged non-declaration of asset,” added “this was consequent to an application filed by CCB to the CCT Chairman last Friday for the trial to commence against the CJN on a six-count charge.
“However, service of summons has been effected to the defendant. The three-man panel led by Justice Danladi Y. Umar, will commence the trial on Monday, January 14, at its courtroom at about 10 am.”
The statement further read that the letter to the CCT, contained the six-count charge bordering on non-declaration of assets, was filed on Friday, January 11 by the operatives of the CCB, and signed by one Musa Ibrahm Usman and Fatima Danjuma.