Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen has responded to the accusations of false assets declaration by the Code of Conduct Bureau, clarifying that he forgot to update his asset declaration forms, according to some reports.
“My asset declaration form numbers SCN 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day, 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009. Following my appointment as acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me to realize the mistake.
“I then did the declaration to cover the period in default. I did not include my standard chartered bank account in SCN 000014 because I believed they were not opened.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN 000015 was to cover that period of four years which includes my term as CJN,” Mr Onnoghen said in his statement to the CCB dated January 11.
The online news platform, Premium Times published snippets of Onnoghen’s response.
Nevertheless, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has scheduled Jan. 14 for his arraignment.
Mr Ibraheem Al-Hassan, the tribunal’s Head, Press and Public Relations, said this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
He said the action was consequent upon an application filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to the Chairman of the tribunal.
Al-Hassan said the application was signed by Mr Ibrahim Usman and Mrs Fatima Ali on behalf of the bureau.
He, therefore, said the tribunal would commence the trial of the CJN on six-count charge as the service of summons had been effected on the defendant.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI) filed the petition at the Code of Conduct (CCB) against Justice Onnoghen.
Mr Dennis Aghanya, Executive-Secretary of the organisation, who made the copy of the petition available to NAN on Saturday in Abuja, said the body had acted as a whistle blower.
Aghanya said the petition, which was filed on Jan. 7, was an offshoot of a painstaking investigation into the dealings of the CJN.
He said the organisation was of the strong opinion that the allegations were weighty enough to compel an action against Justice Onnoghen.
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 each 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 dollars each.
It was also alleged that the June 7, 2011 transactions were followed by another four cash deposits of 10,000 dollars each.
Similarly, ARDI further alleged that Justice Onnoghen had on June 27, 2011, made another set of five separate cash deposits of 10,000 dollars each and made four more cash deposits of 10,000 dollars 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 Dec.14, 2016 while that for Declarant SCN: 000015 was also issued on Dec.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 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,’’ the petitioner alleged.
According to the petitioner, the CJN runs Union Bank account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with balance of N9, 536,407 on Nov. 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 Nov. 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 Nov. 14, 2016.
Another account they alleged was operated by the CJN included Standard Chartered account 00001062650, with balance of $164,804.82, as at Nov.14 2016.
The other account linked to him is Standard Chartered with account number 5001062686, with balance of 55,154.56 Euros as at Nov. 14, 2016 among others
Mr Onnoghen was first appointed acting CJN on November 10, 2016 following the retirement of the former CJN, Mahmud Mohammed.
He was sworn in to office as Nigeria’s 17th CJN on March 8, 2017.